Stainless steel sector has a bright long term future - BIR

The Stainless Steel & Special Alloys Committee meeting in Rome was assured by its guest speaker that despite the current difficulties shared by many heavy industries, the stainless steel sector has a bright long term future.

Mr Barry Hunter of Hunter Alloys LLC in the USA agreed that scrap flows into domestic wholesalers continued to be slow. Summarizing conditions in Asia, Mr Mark Sellier of OneSteel Recycling also spoke of tight scrap availability as well as of the adverse impact on stainless demand of the Euro zone crisis. Mr Pascal Payet Gaspard secretary general of International Stainless Steel Forum and formerly chairman & CEO of ArcelorMittal Stainless International described stainless steel growth potential in emerging countries as enormous and underlined the efforts already being made to tackle overcapacity through restructuring measures which he hoped would be replicated elsewhere. However, the significant expansion programs in China, notably by Baosteel and Shanxi TISCO, would mean that overcapacity remained an issue.

In a report read out by the Stainless Steel & Special Alloys Committee's General Delegate, Mr Ian Hetherington of the British Metals Recycling Association, Mr Anand Gupta of Ambica Steels in India, suggested that domestic stainless mills are operating at around 70% capacity utilization and have been buying scrap on a hand to mouth basis. Reporting for the Middle East, Mr Ahmad Sharif of Sharif Metals Est confirmed stainless steel bar was being traded in Jordan at low levels due to a heavy handed government policy of imposing USD 70 per tonne export fees, which is obviously having an impact on stainless steel exports.

Mr Michael Wright of ELG Haniel in the UK, who was re elected chairman of the BIR Stainless Steel & Special Alloys Committee during the Rome Convention, spoke of good global demand for stainless scrap in the first five months of 2012 but also of a slight tail off for June 2012. However, any decline in scrap demand had been more than compensated by a lack of availability. Mr Hetherington also delivered the comments prepared by Ildar Neverov of Russia's Steelway Limited Company which highlighted the probability that the country's stainless steel scrap export duties, currently at 15%, would be progressively lowered starting from August 2012.

Summing up conditions and developments in Europe based on reports from committee board members, Mr Wright indicated that recent market restructuring should lead to AST in Terni becoming the most important stainless steel scrap purchaser in Europe while scrap exports from Italy will become even rarer. As for the UK market, Mr Wright downgraded the 2012 stainless steel production forecast from a repeat of the 310,000 tonnes seen in 2011 to nearer 280,000 tonnes.

In his superalloys report, Mr Phil Rosenberg of Keywell LLC in the USA predicted that titanium prices would be soft in the short term but good in the long term.

By the way According to statistics release by the US Department of Commerce, the US imported 115,145 tons of stainless steel in May 2012, rising from 92,951 tons in a month earlier, hitting the 15 month high.

It is analyzed that the sharp rise in stainless imports was driven by surged imports of stainless semi finished products and hot rolled coils. The data showed that the imports of stainless semi finished products soared significantly to 15,568 tons in May 2012 from 9,291 tons in April 2012 and the imports of hot rolled coils surged to 12,034 tons in May 2012 from 8,773 tons in a month earlier.

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