MRC Global InSight

Stainless Steel & Alloy Pipe, Fittings & Flanges

Global demand for stainless steel and high alloy pipe, fittings and flanges (PFF) has dropped in line with the overall decrease in oil and gas activity. However, there has been a more moderate fall in demand for specialty PFF in the chemical and petrochemical industries, because of the high demand for cleaning and chemical products during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is an abundance of finished goods and inventory, causing lead times to shrink. However, in the Asia Pacific region, the chemical industry, which is highly reliant on seamless stainless and alloy pipe, is expanding rapidly. We expect that activity level to continue in the region.

The U.S. is still the second fastest growing region for stainless steel due to the rise in construction and consumer goods industry. Stainless steel pricing in the first half of 2020 fell moderately but has settled and is now stable.

MRC Global’s suppliers are cautiously optimistic that metal prices, which are the harbingers for the price of stainless steel and alloy products, will rebound in the second half of 2020 after hitting their lowest point in late March 2020.

The London Metal Exchange (LME) historical tracker shows a nickel low price of $11,055 per ton on March 23, 2020, and a high of $14,335 per ton on August 7, 2020. This upward trend is noteworthy as nickel is the key driver for the price of stainless steel products. However, LME shows the fall of molybdenum pricing, which is also a main ingredient of stainless steel, to a 6-month low of $7.38 per pound.

The suspension of the Philippines' nickel mining and processing operations in Surigao del Norte province amid efforts to contain COVID-19 will lead to a reduction in China's nickel pig iron (NPI) production as they are reliant on supply from this province in the absence of nickel ore from Indonesia, which banned exports on nickel ore products effective January 1, 2020. China was expected to rely on the Philippines as the main source of feedstock for its nickel pig iron production industry. This news could put negative pressure on Chinese NPI output later in the year as Chinese nickel ore port stocks and stocks held by producers become depleted.

Pricing from the stainless steel makers in Europe is steady and deliveries are consistent.