Global stainless market dominated by Far Eastern players

Markus Moll, managing director of Steel & Metals Market Research of Austria, speaking at the recent World Recycling Convention and Exhibition in Dubai, organised by the Bureau of International Recycling, told delegates that 18/8 stainless steel scrap availability was growing faster over the period 1980 to 2020 than 300 series stainless steel production – the former by 4.6% per annum and the latter by 4%. According to Mr Moll, projected stainless steel demand would climb 5% in Europe between 2014 and 2016 but would stagnate in the NAFTA region over the same period.

In his presentation, Mr Moll said he expected crude stainless steel production to increase by 3.8% to 46.36Mt in 2015. He said that China would grow by roughly the same percentage to around 24Mt, adding that the Chinese were consuming 100% of its domestically available scrap. Moll said that China would extend its scrap ratio (currently 22%) as more of it enters the cycle of what he called an increasingly mature market.

In the USA, stainless steel output, which leapt more than 30% in 2014, was expected to climb just 0.5% higher in 2015 to 3Mt. Production in Europe is projected to grow 5.1% to 7.65Mt and Moll said that India would record the biggest gain, up 13.1% to 3.96Mt based on the so-called ‘Modi factor’.

Finnish producer Outokumpu, said Moll, was the only one of the world’s leading stainless steel manufacturers based outside of the Far East. Asian companies occupy 18 of the top 25 places with the Tsingshan Group of China taking the number one spot for the first time. The most profitable company, however, was North American Stainless while in Europe Aperam, Outokumpu and Acerinox were the leading players thanks to cost reduction programmes.

Another nickel surplus was forecast for 2015, said Moll. He anticipated a floor level of US$13,000/tonne. He said that nickel prices would be higher in a year from now.