Stainless steel service centers and distributors agree that
Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI) figures for 2013
indicate the market has improved from 2012, but remain wary of
such figures suggesting further improvement in 2014, industry
sources told AMM.
totaled 124,400 tons in December, according to the latest MSCI
data, up 10 percent from 113,000 tons a year earlier, signaling
a stainless market that has benefited from better demand and a
more positive economic climate, although 2013 shipments of
nearly 1.77 million tones were up only 0.7 percent from 2012
amm.com, Jan. 17).
Service center and
distributor sources noted that while the overall market for
stainless steel has improved, any gains had been made from a
"very poor" 2012, with little evidence suggesting reasons for a
further improved market going forward.
"Demand is constant.
Its not bad, but it hasnt increased.
Everythings been relatively constant the past six
months," one West Coast service center source said. "For us, in
terms of tons shipped and earned revenue, 2013 was slightly up
(in tons shipped) and revenue was down slightly. Its now
more competitive. Margins have been lower because
everyones fighting for market share."
"We saw the same
increase in our numbers, pretty close to that," one East Coast
service center source said, citing political uncertainty in an
election year as cause for 2012s slump. "I guess the
economys starting to turn around, finally."
"Last year was really
poor," one Midwest service center source said when asked about
the 10-percent year-on-year increase in December shipments. "I
only know one or two service centers that are doing really well
on their contract business. Most of the others are struggling."
He said that demand picked up in January, "but prices are still
quite low. Youre selling base gauges at very low or no