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UK misses out on stainless party

While the stainless steel industry in Europe and the rest of the world thrives, the picture in the UK will remain subdued until the first quarter of 2007, it has been claimed.

Worldwide production of ingots should increase by 27 million tonnes or 9.4% during 2006, with the high demand meaning that many steelworks reduced their holiday shutdowns to cope with the situation.

However, it seems that someone forgot to invite this country to the party, with scrap dealers and processors reporting little to no activity through the summer and into September and October.

ELG Haniel Metals director Michael Wright said: In Germany, there has been a high demand for raw materials and Italy and France are also thriving. But over the past few months, the picture in the UK has been a little different [to the rest of Europe].

The demand there has been reduced due to changes in the product mix required by Ottokumpu which has asked for a tighter rein on residual tolerances, reducing the types it can use. This situation will probably continue into the first quarter of next year.

But as if to rub salt in the wounds, it appears that traders on these shores will see a huge drop in value probably before they can take full advantage of the current heady trading conditions.

Wright added: With higher demand in the stainless steel sector, the value of nickel has shot up. But it has also been caused by high speculation and institutional investment buying. There will be a correction when these investors switch their funds.

This will have a dramatic effect on stainless steel prices and when the downward spiral starts, it will come at us pretty quickly and pretty hard.



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