Did you know that nickel accounts for half the cost of stainless steel? Nickel surged 41% this year. Why? Indonesia, the largest supplier to China, banned ore exports in order to spur investments from domestic smelters instead of international smelters. Indonesia’s ban has created a global deficit in production until the estimated year of 2019. On the bright side, this downturn in supply is increasing profit for mining companies.
Nickel makes up 8 to 9% of series 300 stainless steel, which is about two thirds of the global output. Buyers of stainless steel purchase more products to avoid higher surcharges. As nickel prices surge, the steel industry is seeing some recovery from previous losses. The nickel-fueled gains may not last long. There are talks that China may build smelters in Indonesia to get around the ban.
China, the biggest metals user in the world, may become a net importer of stainless steel this year. This is because of the dismantled nickel-ore supply from Indonesia. China accounts for 53% of global stainless-steel output. In fact, China had a cost advantage by proactively developing technology to use lower-cost nickel pig iron. The lower-cost nickel pig iron helped lower the price of refined nickel.
It is estimated that Chinese stainless steel output will grow 9.1% in 2014. Last year, the stainless steel output increased 21% with more low-nickel content alloys produced. Construction of Chinese smelters in Indonesia may take an entire year. De-bottlenecking of supply will not occur until mid-2015.
Stainless steel makers all over the world are seeing an increase in sales as customers stock up to avoid higher raw-material surcharges. The increase in sales is reviving prospects for in an industry that accumulated losses since the financial crisis.
To learn more about Shanghai Metal Corporation, Click here
Follow Stainless Steel updates on Twitter by SMC, Click here