Stainless Steel prices in the US market remained stable in Q1 2023 due to steady demand from the construction industry, despite the financial turmoil in the US banking industry. Mill margins were under pressure due to rising input costs and the use of more scrap in furnaces. Stainless steel inventories were slow to deplete despite a significant drop in imports, and cautious buyers kept mills open to individual, non-contract negotiations. Multiple buyers were going through order books to decide how to approach buying over the next few months, as many were concerned that pricing could peak and fall off in the late second quarter and the second half of the year. As a result, SS 304 HR Plate prices for Ex Texas settled at USD 3990/MT.
In the Chinese market, the Stainless Steel (Flat) prices were bearish due to high inventory levels and subdued downstream construction demand. Stainless steel manufacturers issued limited goods last quarter, and this quarter's supply release is expected to be sparse. Despite post-holiday optimism, some large stainless-steel mills scheduled production with caution due to scarce raw materials. Spot transactions were slow, and overseas demand was weak. Although prices fell slightly in March, they remained higher than spot transaction prices, and the majority of buyers were waiting for further price drops. Increased production has also dampened demand, and March was a challenging month for sellers. However, price recovery is expected after the second week of April.
In Q1 of 2023, the Stainless Steel (Flat) prices in German market showed a stagnant price trend due to limited supply and firm downstream inquiries. Spot supply of raw material pure nickel from the overseas market was limited, leading to subdued upstream demand for coil and downstream demand for tube and sheet in northern and southern Europe. European mills' attempts to increase flat prices mostly failed, with most countries showing stable values compared to January, May, and June lead times being quoted. Some market players saw normal consumption returning following the post-pandemic rush, while others considered keeping prices stable a significant achievement and believed that the flats market would not absorb any hikes. Downstream demand was sluggish, with falling prices observed. Mills, service centers, and re-rollers predicted a negative April due to low consumption during the seasonally short month of Easter.
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