NEW YORK Stainless scrap processor prices have taken another tumble, with processors awaiting indications on steel sector demand for March before taking on more inventory.
Processors are buying 304 solids in a range of $1,525 to $1,600 per gross ton vs. $1,650 to $1,700 previously, while 316 solids are transacting at $2,200 to $2,275 per ton compared with $2,275 to $2,350 previously. Meanwhile, 304 turnings are transacting in a range of $1,375 to $1,410 per gross ton, down from $1,475 to $1,525 previously. All 400-series grades remain unchanged.
Dealer scrap prices also dropped, with 304 solids falling to a range of 54 to 56 cents per pound from 57 to 59 cents, and 316 solids dropping to 80 to 82 cents per pound from 83 to 85 cents. At the same time, 304 turnings fell to 40 to 42 cents per pound from 43 to 45 cents.
The cash nickel contract on the London Metal Exchange ended the official session at $16,525 per tonne ($7.50 per pound) Feb. 26, down 3.9 percent from $17,200 per tonne ($7.80 per pound) Feb. 20.
While the continuing decline in official nickel prices was one of the major factors cited in the scrap price drop, market participants also cited a dip in near-term demand as processors play a waiting game.
"Everyone is waiting for more information from the mills to see what theyll be buying for March," one processor told AMM. "Its such a strange market because everyone is so nervous. Theyre also waiting to see if nickel stays where it is."
Uncertainty over future steel sector demand is causing many to hold off on acquiring more scrap inventory despite the lower prices, processors said.
"The fall in prices is rewarding procrastination. ... Currently, theres not enough incentive for buyers to jump," a second processor said.
"We dont know what will happen with the mills next month. You dont want to be long; thats for sure." a third processor said. "The 400-series isnt going up or down because the iron market will probably go up next month. Theyre talking about going back to where it was in January."