NEW YORK Primary stainless steel prices have eased further in recent weeks on the back of lower surcharges, with market participants reporting shorter lead times moving into the summer.
Free-market prices for Type 304 cold-rolled sheet are $1.21 per pound f.o.b. mill, down from $1.27 a month ago; Type 316L cold-rolled sheet is $1.73 per pound, down from $1.79 previously; Type 304 coiled plate prices have dropped to $1.19 per pound from $1.24; and Type 316 coiled plate has dropped to $1.71 per pound from $1.77.
Distributors told AMM that base prices have not moved and the price drops were instead indicative of surcharge reductions announced by stainless steel producers for June (amm.com, May 22).
But at the same time, most players also reported some slight demand weakness.
"Its a little soft. I think supply is still outweighing demand so that keeps lead times short. We dont have a lot of business out two to three months," a source at one primary stainless distributor said. "Were not expecting it to fall off, but with lead times being short and prices off, people are only looking to buy as they need it because they know they can get it quickly."
A second distributor source agreed that business wasnt booming. "As far as sales go, were flat. The volumes are up, but prices are depressed," he said.
A third distributor source confirmed that demand was continuing to come in the form of "normal, day-to-day business" rather than large-scale infrastructure projects. "Its not great, but its not terrible," he said.