MRC Global Volume 9 Issue 1 May 2018 InSight
MRC Global InSight

Stainless Steel & Alloy Pipe, Fittings & Flanges

Stainless steel and alloy pipe, fitting and flange (PFF) pricing remains volatile as raw material costs have continued to climb sharply and US government actions drive pricing upward. Nickel is trading at three-year highs and has increased by 39% since July 2017. Over the same period, molybdenum has increased by 60%. Ferrochrome is flat, but remains at the high-level set during Q4 2016.

It is uncertain if these high nickel levels will be maintained as London Metal Exchange (LME) inventories remain relatively high and the availability of nickel pig iron (NPI) is increasing. Indonesia has now reemerged as the primary exporter of refined NPI to China and can deliver 25% of the global nickel output. In 2014, the export of unrefined ores was banned in Indonesia, and they have since successfully developed a value-added processing/refining industry in-country, which has created jobs and positioned Indonesia as a dominate producer of nickel. Their production could greatly impact the direction of nickel pricing with the potential for an over-supply that could bring pricing down.

US government actions have greatly impacted the import of stainless steel commodity PFF products into the US. Stainless welded pipe suits against China, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and India over the last 10 years have restricted access of many Asian welded pipe producers to the US. The recent Section 232 action will reduce Asian supply further with quotas on South Korea and a 25% tariff on Taiwan. Stainless welded pipe pricing has increased significantly since mid-2017, with pricing up by 30% to 40%.

Stainless seamless pipe imported to the US will receive a 25% tariff and base pricing for pipe made in the US from imported billet will increase by 20% with surcharges increasing by 25%. The Section 232 action will lift both domestic and import billet prices due to the added tariff. As a result, there will be additional increases to stainless flanges of more than 18%.

US stainless flange producers filled an anti-dumping suit against China and India in August 2017. This suit impacts all stainless and alloy rough forgings, semi-finished and finished flanges produced in either country. China has received a combined 431% countervailing/anti-dumping duties and will exit the US market. Preliminary countervailing/anti-dumping duties for India have been announced, with Bebitz receiving 285% and Echjay receiving 150%. The balance of India was given 23%. The International Trade Commission (ITC) has not concluded this suit yet, but it should be finalized by July 2018. US manufacturers have already raised their prices as a result of the initial findings by approximately 25% and we anticipate further price increases later in the year.

Volatility in the market makes it difficult to maintain fixed pricing for extended periods. When quoting projects, it is important to understand firm pricing periods and how surcharges are determined.