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Stainless steel flat-rolled demand still patchy

Keywords: Tags  primary stainless steel pricing, stainless pricing, stainless steel prices, stainless surcharges, stainless demand, Daniel Fitzgerald

NEW YORK — Coiled stainless steel plate and cold-rolled stainless steel sheet prices have declined as market participants continue to lament lackluster end-user demand.

Average prices for Type 304 coiled plate are now $1.27 per pound f.o.b. mill, down from $1.30 a month ago, while Type 316 coiled plate is trading at around $1.80 per pound, down from $1.83 previously.

Meanwhile, prices for Type 304 cold-rolled sheet have slipped to around $1.30 per pound, down from $1.36 last month, while Type 316L is trading around $1.82 per pound, down from $1.88 at the same time in March.

Market participants told AMM that pricing had been largely influenced by the introduction of lower surcharges (, March 21), coupled with softer demand.

"Things are slow; it’s not robust demand by any means. We’d be happy to take 2012 (volumes) right now," one East Coast stainless steel distributor said.

A second East Coast distributor agreed. "It’s quite stagnant. There’s overcapacity in the market, so many suppliers and very soft demand."

However, some distributors contacted by AMM claimed that demand had improved somewhat in recent weeks, even if that strengthening was not yet reflected in market prices.

"Through the first quarter it was fairly dismal, but in the last week of March and so far this (past) week, it seems to be more active. There’s more quoting and more orders," a Southern distributor said April 4. "It may just be a blip and go quiet again, but I’m encouraged by the increased activity so far."

Sources also said that lead times from mill producers appeared to be lengthening to as much as eight weeks, up noticeably from lead times of four to five weeks experienced earlier in the year.

"There’s still a lot of inventory in the mill depots; we’re seeing a hefty amount of stock at those locations," a West Coast stainless steel distributor said. "So if a customer can wait, we’ll go to the mill, but if they need something in a few days, there’s plenty of inventory.

"You can run your inventory pretty lean right now because the depots and master distributors have plenty," he added.

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