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Stainless scrap follows LME north

Keywords: Tags  stainless steel, scrap, LME, London Metal Exchange, nickel, dealer, processor, broker scrap prices

NEW YORK — Stainless steel scrap prices have ticked upward this week on the strength of higher London Metal Exchange nickel prices, though market participants noted a "natural" summer slowdown in trading activity.

AMM’s broker/processor buying prices increased for nickel-bearing austenitic grades of stainless scrap July 7, with Type 316 solids rising to a range of $2,555 to $2,600 per gross ton from $2,525 to $2,575 previously, Type 304 solids jumping to $1,880 to $1,925 per ton from $1,835 to $1,880 and Type 304 turnings moving to $1,700 to $1,725 per ton from $1,660 to $1,700.

The higher stainless scrap prices correspond with a slight rally in nickel prices over the past week. The LME’s three-month nickel contract closed the official session July 8 at $19,550 per tonne ($8.87 per pound), up 3.3 percent from $18,930 per tonne ($8.59 per pound) July 1. The contract reached $19,850 per tonne ($9.00 per pound) July 3, its highest level since it hit $20,725 per tonne ($9.40 per pound) May 14, the day after LME nickel prices rallied to a 27-month high (, May 13).

Dealer and processor sources confirmed that austenitic stainless scrap material has been trading at higher levels since nickel’s mini-rally last week, though some noted a "natural" slowdown in activity as melters undergo summer maintenance shutdowns and the industry at large takes a "breather."

"The market is still a little sleepy as we go into summer, with demand tapering off a little," one processor source said.

"You have a situation where nickel got really exciting for a couple of days last week. ... It doesn’t seem like it’s reflective of any kind of actual change in business," a second processor source said. "There’s always this natural slowdown in the summer."

A third processor source said the market was in "a little bit of a summer slump," citing maintenance shutdowns being taken by scrap melters. "If anything, the volumes have been pushed back a little bit," he said. "They’re going to take the tonnages, but instead of this month they may push it back to next month. People are taking a breather, if you will."

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