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News

Improved margins for stainless producers through 2004

MEPS (International) : 04 January, 2005  (New Product)
Stainless steel prices have been expanding for the past three years. For much of the time, price hikes have recovered only the cost of raw materials. The picture changed in 2004. The mills have been able to increase the margin between the selling price and input costs.
Stainless steel prices have been expanding for the past three years. For much of the time, price hikes have recovered only the cost of raw materials. The picture changed in 2004. The mills have been able to increase the margin between the selling price and input costs.

For the US and European steelmakers this can be seen from upward movements in basis prices. In Asia, it is more difficult to assess because the producers do not yet employ an alloy surcharge mechanism to build up their selling prices. This may change in the future.

US steel manufacturers raised type 304 cold rolled coil basis prices by $US335 per tonne through 2004. This was achieved through tighter supply conditions after the closure of J & L Speciality steels. Anti dumping regulations controlled import volumes also.

In the EU, basis price rises have been more modest - moving up by 85 per tonne over the year for the benchmark product. Supply has been quite plentiful and the market not conducive to substantial price hikes. Nevertheless, the improvement in the conversion margin has been $US110 over the year.

The performance of the Asian market has been solid. Average transaction price gains of $US876 per tonne have been obtained for type 304 cold rolled coil this year. Based on the US figures, alloy costs rose by $US676 per tonne. This leaves an enhancement in the conversion margin of $US200 per tonne in 2004.

At first sight, these figures indicate that the EU mills have not been able to make the same gains as those in the other regions. However, if we analyse new figures soon to be published by MEPS on regional trends, we find that the EU producers took advantage of strong market conditions in earlier years. The MEPS Stainless Steel Price Index for cold rolled type 304 in the US a year ago was 99.5 (using April 1997 as 100). The equivalent figure for Asia was 101.2. However the MEPS index for the EU in December 2003 was 122.4. The transaction price rises over the past year have been 42.4, 52.3 and 38.7 percent in the US, Asia and EU, respectively.

Source: MEPS - Stainless Steel Review
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