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US stainless sheet prices move up on mill hikes, high demand

Pittsburgh — US stainless sheet prices moved up to start April as mills lowered base price discounts and demand increased, sources said Monday.

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North American Stainless kicked off the latest round of price hikes February 28, announcing it would be raising prices for all series 200, series 300 and type 430 cold-rolled stainless coil and sheet grades, effective with shipments April 1. The increase, which was followed by ATI Allegheny Ludlum, Outokumpu Coils America and AK Steel, was to be achieved through a reduction in functional discounts of two percentage points. Overall, NAS expected the discount reduction to raise cold-rolled stainless flats base transaction prices 5%-7%.

"We have seen a solid incoming orders from both manufacturers and distributors," a service center source said, adding March was a record month for their operation. "Demand seems healthy, while inventories are lean."

Sources put current lead times from US stainless mills in the range of five to eight weeks, depending on the alloy.

"We're definitely seeing strong demand," another service center source said.

US stainless flats surcharges for series-300 grades will also be up for April deliveries, according to raw material levies published by domestic mills in late March. NAS, ATI, AK and Outokumpu set surcharges for Types 304 and 316 at 60.12-60.17 cents/lb and 76.02-76.09 cents/lb, respectively. Type 304 stainless is up from 59.29-59.34 cents/lb in March, while Type 316 is up from 73.31-73.36 cents/lb.

In the near term, stainless sheet base pricing seems firm at current levels, source said.

"I don't see mills cutting deals," the first service center source said. S&P Global Platts on Monday assessed Type 304 stainless sheet transaction prices at 120-123 cents/lb, up from 116-118 cents/lb in the previous month. Type 316 stainless was assessed at 156-160 cents/lb, up from 147-149 cents/lb.

Type 430 stainless sheet transaction prices were assessed at 93-96 cents/lb, up from 90-91 cents.

--Justine Coyne,

--Edited by Richard Rubin,