Domestic flat-rolled stainless steel producers, who
largely had been sticking to their guns on base price
increases announced a few months ago, are increasingly
turning to discounting, particularly for larger-volume
Base prices have been difficult because of increased
low-priced imports and the current uncertain economic
outlook, a spokesman for Allegheny Technologies Inc.
(ATI), Pittsburgh, said. That uncertainty has affected
stainless steel restocking, not just for service centers but
for everyone in the supply chain.
U.S. flat-rolled stainless mills announced a base price
increase through a 2-percent reduction in the functional
Brad Hite, president of Stainless Sales Corp., Chicago,
applauded the move. Given declining nickel prices, we
could use this increase, he said, while acknowledging
that higher stainless prices also could carry with them the
risk of opening the market to imports from Asia.
Stainless mills have been sticking to their guns on
smaller-volume orders, Bill Sales, senior vice president of
nonferrous operations at Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co.,
Los Angeles, said, but have been willing to negotiate when it
comes to higher-volume deals.
Dennis Oates, chairman, president and chief executive
officer of Universal Stainless & Alloy Products Inc.,
Bridgeville, Pa., said that while there has been a lull or
pause in demand since early May with a change in customer
buying patterns, the actual end-use story is still
The problem lies in a combination of factors, including a
gloomier economic outlook worldwide, falling nickel and other
alloy prices, and a noticeable increase in imports from
China, according to Carl Moulton, ATIs senior vice
president, international, noting that this is making it hard
to paint an accurate picture of true consumption.
Just how much of a factor imports are, or will be going
forward, remains a point of debate. While there was a pickup
in import orders earlier in the year, as of early July they
were a bit of a gamble amid falling raw material surcharges,
said a product manager at ONeal Steel Inc., Birmingham,
Also, no one has been in a hurry to give away the
advantages they make on the buy, Bob Mraz, vice president of
sales and marketing at TW Metals Inc., Exton, Pa., said.
Master distributors dont want a blowout like the
one they saw a few years ago.
Nevertheless, Hite said his company and some other service
centers have been looking to buy imports directly from
foreign mills rather than through brokers as they seek to get
a better buy.
We will get through this. Stainless is still a good
business and the manufacturing economy in the United States
is doing well, the ATI spokesman said.