The more things change (like the improving economy) the more things stay the same (like the ever-increasing price of stainless steel).
Since summer we have seen domestic mills quoting January leadtimes, which is about one month later than we experienced earlier in the year. According to Rich Ryan, general manager with Ryerson, the current overall shortage of stainless (or at least the perception of shortage) can be attributed to a few factors: one major domestic mill recently had production issues and was forced to shut down the mills for maintenance; we have seen higher scrap costs to mills, and surcharges for nickel increased 25 cents per pouch at the start of 2014, prompted by fears of a global shortage (stainless accounts for about 1/3 of all nickel demand). While Rich believes nickel pricing has stabilized, he noted that mills have announced another pricing increase in October.
“But it’s not surprising pricing is going up,” he adds. “Prices had been depressed for years due to the economy; now, with the economy improving pricing should go up a little … pricing is only about 15% to 20% higher than when the economy plunged several years back.