Stainless output revival expected

According to Meps, stainless steel production collapsed during the latter part of 2007, after a solid start earlier in the year. The catalyst was a significant drop in the LME nickel price. Meps estimate this year’s global output at 27.5 million tonnes – down 2.5% on the figure in the previous twelve months. Substantial cuts have been made to output in the past two quarters. No region escaped the sword as mill order books collapsed. At the halfway stage, crude steel output was 1.33 million tonnes up on the figure in the same period in 2006. Meps estimate that a, year-on-year, decrease of 2.1 million tonnes took place in the last six months. EU supply in the third quarter of 2007 declined by over 30% on the same period in 2006. Greater percentage cuts took place in the US and South Korea. The Japanese weighed in with a 20% reduction and even the Chinese joined in the action. Production curbs continued into the final trimester. Meps believe the inventory depletion phase will come to an end in the first quarter of 2008. Mill delivery lead times are starting to extend from the extremely short offers being made just a few months ago. Customers are now expected to reorder more in line with real requirements. Steel producers should then be in a position to increase plant utilisation. Meps forecast global stainless steel output rising to 29 million tonnes in 2008. This equates to an increase of more than 5% over the anticipated outturn in 2007 and 3.5% above the previous record production in 2006.