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Stainless steel prices up, but demand mixed

Keywords: Tags  stainless prices, stainless surcharges, nickel, stainless demand, stainless, Daniel Fitzgerald

NEW YORK — Stainless steel prices rose slightly alongside March surcharges, although many buyers are holding off in anticipation of lower tags in April, market participants said.

Prices for Type 304 cold-rolled sheet increased to $1.36 per pound from $1.35 a month ago, while Type 316L moved up to $1.88 from $1.87 per pound.

Type 304L cold-rolled strip also ticked up to $1.55 per pound from $1.54 a month ago, and Type 316L moved up to $2.24 per pound from $2.21 in the same comparison.

The price increases were largely in line with higher March surcharges from the major producers (, Feb. 21), market participants said.

However, one distributor said that the recent plunge in nickel prices will likely deter some buyers from making purchases in March.

"The mills are trying to hold the line, but with a 6-cent drop probably coming in a few weeks’ time, I don’t think anyone is going to take those prices," he said.

"It will likely slow the further in the month we go," a second distributor agreed. "Since April surcharges are dropping, people will hold off if they can."

Business has improved slightly since the start of the year, but still hasn’t reached its pre-November levels, market sources told AMM.

"It seems to be improving a little bit as compared to the fourth quarter of 2012, but that was an absolutely dismal period," a third distributor said. "The general market is soft. There are still some buyers that are very uncertain about what the year will hold for them, and they’re adjusting their purchases accordingly."

His overall assessment was gloomy. "I think it will be a tough year," he added. "I don’t see anything on the horizon to suggest it will get better."

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