This page is archived news covering the period from Jan 1, 2003 to June 31, 2003.
If you are looking for current daily market news, please visit this page.


2003
First Quarter

# Working Days

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1/3    -  Nickel Price      $ 3.39/lb
1/8    -  NRC officials downplay incident but industry experts admit it was US' closest brush with nuclear disaster since Three Mile Island. In March 2002, at Davis-Besse nuclear power plant near Toledo, OH,  it was discovered boric acid in pressurized cooling water had eaten thru a 6" thick steel lid and was being contained only by a 3/8" thick stainless steel lid .
1/10  -  Nickel Price      $ 3.61/lb
1/14  -  First news of potential strike talks at Norilsk Nickel in Russia, worlds largest nickel producer
1/17  -  Nickel Price      $ 3.61/lb
1/24  -  Nickel Price      $ 3.90/lb
1/31  -  Nickel Price      $ 3.70/lb
2/6    -  Union leaders at Norilsk recommend strike
2/7    -  Nickel Price      $ 3.81/lb
2/10  -  Norilsk Nickel will meet with all employee's for March 12 to discuss strike possibility
2/10  -  USA stainless imports fell 26% in 2002
2/10  -  Union leaders at Norilsk join hunger strike after failing to reach agreement with management
2/11  -  Division of Norilsk workers vote not to strike
2/12  -  NASA officials report corrosion being looked at as potential cause of shuttle disaster
2/14  -  Nickel Price     $ 3.82/lb
2/17  -  Another division of Norilsk workers vote not to strike but agree to attend strike talks in March
2/18  -  Labor contracts at Inco, Ltd scheduled to begin in March. Current contract expires May 2003.
2/19  -  Producer profits suffering - raw material costs increasing but soft market causing hesitation in increasing stainless costs. Surcharges on 304 flat products, at $230 per tone in December are presently at $278 and predicted to be at $315 by March.    .
2/20  -  Prices on nickel expected to stay high for 2003 according to experts. While consumption is  expected to increase slightly over 2002 (grew 4.7% in 2002),production capacities have not grown as fast (only grew 2.3% in 2002). Other factors include low scrap inventories and record low world inventories (6.6 weeks consumption). Compounding market uncertainties include strike talks at Norilsk nickel plant, upcoming labor negotiations at Inco Ltd, Iraqi war potential, and strong demand in China. .
2/21  -  Nickle Price     $ 3.90/lb

2/21 -   Norilsk union leaders end hunger strike
2/21  -  European Union anti-dumping duty of 74.7% against Far East stainless steel fastener  manufacturers since 1999, expires today - negative impact expected on US importers
2/24  -  LME traders near the $9000/tone barrier on nickel ($4.08/lb)
2/25  -  LME nickel closes over $9000/tone for first time in 3 yearS
2/25  -  Labor negotiations with the union at Inco Ltd, largest nickel producer in the western world, will begin April 7th


According to the International Nickel Study Group website, it is estimated 1/4 of all nickel used in stainless steel is recycled nickel. USGS estimates Cuba maintains over 38.3% of earth's nickel reserves, while Russia with 14% and Canada with 13.2% follow.

2/27 -  Large supplier of stainless steel fasteners to distributors warns substantial price increases possible in near future. Inventory levels are good but if distributors panic buy, it could feed on itself.
2/28 -  Nickle Price       $ 3.96/lb

2/28 -  Norilsk - CEO Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia's only billionaire bachelor, infuriates striking union leaders when he reports his annual income as $450 rubles ($14) a month. Known for throwing lavish parties on the  French Riviera, Forbes ranks 37 year old Prokhorov as the world's 256th richest person
3/5  -  LME traders cant regain $9000 level as US mfg exports strengthen and worldwide inventories increase by 348 tone - close at $3.98/lb

3/10 -  LME nickel closes at $3.83/lb
3/12 -  Norilsk Nickel announced today that delegates representing their 60M workers voted 412 against, 1 for, and 36 abstained on a vote to strike
3/12  - LME nickel continues to fall - down 10.5% from end of February high - inventories increasing on weaker demand for stainless and Norilsk union voting not to strike - good news for stainless
3/14  - LME nickel continues to slide over fears about Iraqi war potential closes at $3.66/lb

3/17  - Inco Ltd, the largest producer of nickel in the Western Hemisphere, and due to begin negotiations with its unions in April, revealed large pay raises for its executives in 2002, after the company lost 1.5 billion US dollars. CEO Scott Hand received a 13% raise to $1.24 million, while president Peter Jones received a 23% increase to $915,000. Both received additional stock options. Company officials also announced lower than anticipated earnings for the first quarter of 2003, even with nickel prices up 25% this year.
3/24  -  Norilsk released 10M tones that was being held as bank collateral. This could drive nickel prices downwards, as we predicted in January, although experts doubt significantly. Nickel closed at $3.72/lb on Friday. With Norilsk release and market nervousness after US met its stiffest resistance to date in Iraq Sunday, markets are unstable.
3/26  -  LME nickel closes at $3.67/lb
...
3/28  -  Molybdenum pricing rises 20% during March - 316 Stainless prices expected to follow

Second Quarter

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3/31  -  With nickel prices so high, numerous mines reporting record shipments
3/31  -  LME advises nickel trading "erratic". Closes at $3.51/lb
3/31  -  Chicago Purchasing Management Association monthly survey shows largest drop in 23 years in production activity. Reading of 48.4 shows manufacturing is in contraction instead of expansioN.


Old News worth repeating - Scientists at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research working with the chemistry department of the University of Madras announced they have developed several techniques to make stainless steel orthopedic implants more resistant to localized corrosion in the human body. The procedure implants nitrogen ions to stainless raising the standard 300 ppm of nitrogen to 1600 ppm, which increase its corrosion resistance 5 to 6 times. The human body contains .9 percent of sodium chloride with a PH of 7.4 and temperature of 37 degrees, which is a corrosive medium to stainless. The risk of internal corrosion is not only dangerous in a failing implant, but also nickel released into the body accumulates in certain organs, particularly the kidneys.

4/4   -   Nickel closes at $3.58/lb.
4/8   -   After ending Monday at $8000/tone ($3.63/lb), nickel falls on news that Norilsk has released 18M tones it was holding as collateral and announced plans to release another 18M tones in April.
4/10  -  Nickel regains its losses on fears of possible strike at Inco, Ltd, west's largest nickel producer. Closes at $3.62/lb.
4/10  -  China beats US in 2002 becoming world's largest consumer of copper. Also in 2002 China took over lead in world consumption of stainless steel and steel from US
4/15  -  Nickel closes at $3.72/lb
4/15  -  Inco reports profits for first quarter triple those of 2002 - $33 million
4/16  -  Taiwan Industrial Fastener Institute announced exports increased 13.18% in the 1st quarter of 2003 largely due to overseas buyers placing rush orders as raw material prices increased. Taiwan is also benefiting from China having trouble meeting delivery dates after cutting their export quota.
4/16  -  US ranks third in stainless steel production behind the European Union and Japan
4/16  -  Molybdenum at $4.80/lb down from $ 4.95/lb a month ago, but much higher than $ 3.20/lb a year ago. As a by-product of copper mining and used widely in 316 Stainless, the price is very dependent on copper markets.
4/17  -  International Nickel Study Group predicts nickel production to fall 20M tones short of consumption in 2003 compared to a 15M tone surplus in 2002. This information could drive prices even higher.
4/18  -  LME markets closed for holiday. Nickel ends week at $3.73/lb.
4/18  -  Market watchers predict ferrochrome could climb higher in upcoming months as worldwide inventories fall to low levels. Molybdenum continues to edge down after a volatile March - closes at $4.83/lB
4/21  -  Taiwan fastener manufacturer advises delays in US deliveries and rise in prices due to.... Raw material 304 is at $1800/ton compared to $1350/ton in February. Sudden influx of business from European market due to ending of tariff's. Wire manufacturers keeping raw material inventories tight to keep prices up. YUSCO advising further increases in raw material likely in May.
4/21  -  An 8% import tariff on stainless steel wire was imposed by President Bush on March 21, 2002, but SSINA studies show imports have increased 7% in the year since. US screw manufacturers advise they still find imported material less expensive than domestic - in many cases.
4/22  -  LME reports nickel falls to $3.64/lb, along with other metals, on concerns SARS may adversely affect China's economic growth, largest in the world presently.
4/22  -  Japanese traders advise further increases in export stainless "unlikely" in near future
4/23  -  LME nickel closes at $3.55/lb

4/25  -  LME nickel ends week at $3.56/lb.
4/29  -  US Consumer Board Consumer Confidence skyrocketed to 81.0, well above March's 62.5. Nickel closes at LME at $3.62.


Hexavalent chromium vapor's are emitted when stainless steel is cast, welded, or torch cut. The state of California has determined that hexavalent chromium is a human carcinogen under Proposition 65 and special precautions should be taken under these condition's.

5/1 -  Nickel closes on LME at $3.71/lb.
5/5 -  LME (London Metal Exchange) closed for May Day holiday
5/5 -  World Bank predicting China's economy will grow at 7.3%, after weathering a temporary slowdown due to the SARS epidemic. International Stainless Convention planned in Shanghai for mid-May, cancelled. Market watchers say that SARS and a May import quota will cause a slowdown in stainless production in China, but that fundamentals look positive for a quick rebound in June. POSCO in South Korea has announced their new factory is up and running, with stainless steel production expected to reach 600M tones its first year, and planned growth to 1.66 million tones  annual production. This would make POSCo the world's fifth largest stainless steel producer in the world. In the US The Iron and Steel Society (ISS) and the Association of Iron & Steel Engineers (AISE) announce plans to merge.


Which goes on a bolt first - the jam nut or the regular nut?
Answer - there is no clear answer. Engineers have argued this point for years. The majority feel the jam nut goes first. One argument here
. Webster's Dictionary calls the jam nut a "chuck nut" and describes it as "a nut which is screwed up tight against another nut...in order to prevent accidental unscrewing of the first nut".

5/7  -  LME nickel closes at $ 3.71/lb as traders attention is drawn to Inco contract negotiations
5/9  -  SARS death toll passes 500 worldwide as economists advise China's economy is showing signs of a slow down and predict their GDP could fall as much as 1-2% this year. Over 7000 cases reported worldwide.
5/12  - Special Metals, Inc of Huntington, WV files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday. Special Metals is the world's largest producer of high performance nickel based alloys.
5/12  - US dollar continues to fall against Canadian Dollar - From a recent high in Nov of $1.5903 to Friday's $1.393. This makes exports to Canada more economical and imports more expensive for US consumers..
5/15  -  LME nickel steady since last report. Switzerland based International Management and Development Institute releases 2003 World Competiveness Yearbook. US ranks number one as the most competitive economy, with Australia second in the large economy's class. Finland was number one in the small economic class, which includes countries with under 20 million inhabitants. In the overall economic performance rating, the US edged out China for the top spot. In government efficiency, Australia nudged out the US from the top spot. The report also warns the SARS outbreak will have a dramatic effect on Asian competitiveness, primarily with a huge loss in the tourism industry.
5/16  -  LME nickel ends strong, closing at $ 3.82/lb on reports Norilsk will be halting all nickel  shipments thru their Arctic port in Dudinka in anticipation of the annual Yenisey River flood. MEPS International predicts demand for stainless steel will remain strong, despite SARS. As the world's largest stainless steel consumer, with an average annual growth in consumption of 17% for nearly a decade, what happens in China will have a direct effect on world prices.
5/21  -  LME nickel closes at $3.79/lb.  Reuters reports the two largest producers of nickel in the western hemisphere can't agree on the future of nickel. The largest, Inco, is quoted as being very optimistic. They advise with demands exceeding worldwide supply, even in the slower economy, the cost of nickel should stay up. Number two Falconbridge is more pessimistic. They advise the slowdown in the overall world economies and SARS, could slow demand enough to lower the cost of nickel. Inco advises the only effect they are noticing from SARS is a drop in inventory among nervous distributors and that their direct sales to China has seen no effect due to SARS.
5/23  -  China State Information Center lowers forecast for annual GDP. Blaming negative effect of SARS epidemic in its economy, China has lowered its estimated growth in GDP from 9% to 7.5%. LME begins 3 day weekend closing at $3.83/lb.
5/27  -  Negotiations went sour over the weekend between Inco and its union, and by Monday, a conciliator had been called in. While no agreement has been reached, the union advises they want to vote on Friday. With a strike seeming more possible, LME traders reacted and forced nickel up to close at $3.92/lb.  
5/28  -  LME nickel continues to gain on fears of a possible Inco strike. Additional negative news was the disclosure that Resolute Mining Ltd in Australia had been placed into voluntary liquidation. While only producing an estimated 7,000 tones a year, market watchers say this will not help an already tight market and prices could go over $4/lb in the next few days. Talks at Inco broke off late Tuesday and union leaders advise they are recommending their members reject the company's offer.
5/29  -  LME traders continue to worry about effects of possible strike - with early morning nickel trades exceeding the $4/lb range. Closes at $4.04/lb.
5/29  -  Importers facing uncertainty about future stainless prices because of the Inco nickel strike are now starting to feel the container price increases that began May 1st. Overseas ship lines raised pricing on containers as much as 70%.     


In 1993, the US and Japan consumed 3.7 million tones of stainless steel. 9 years later, in 2002, China alone consumed 3.2 million tones. While other markets averaged an annual growth rate in stainless  consumption of 5-6%, China averaged 17%, and 30% the last two years. 

5/30  -  Union begins strike vote this AM, with Inco union officials predicting an 85% strike vote. If they are correct, strike will begin midnight Saturday. Inco supplies approximately 9% of the world's nickel, which is mainly used in stainless steel.
6/2  -   Inco union strikes at 0400 GMT Sunday. LME early trading shows nickel rising to $4.18/lb, the  highest its been since 2000. Union vote was 95% in favor of contract rejection. With 45% of the work force within 3 years of retirement, contract talks broke down over pension differences. No talks are scheduled at this time. Nickel was at $2.99/lb this time last year.
6/2  -  News from China reflects a drop in stainless steel demand, with SARS getting primary blame. LME nickel inventories stand at 26,532 tones compared to 12,978 tones in March. Demand for nickel generally falls during the summer months. These three factors "could" help keep anticipated price increases minimized as long as the Inco strike does not last too long.
6/2  -  Nickel closes at $ 4.23/lb. Analyst from AME advises strike will have minimal affect on worldwide nickel supplies, unless it extends  beyond 2 weeks.
6/3  -  Profit taking hit LME early with prices sliding to $4.19 before halting. No strike talks at Inco scheduled. Norilsk advises they are increasing production from last years 218M tones, to 235M this year. Norilsk shipments on schedule and flooding has not interferred with shipments so far. Market is volatile. Norilsk US office - 412-722-1120.
6/3  - Inco advises it will declare "force majeure" on some contracts. Force majeure is a legal procedure  taken when unforeseen conditions arise that prohibit a company from meeting contract obligations. The strike. in its 3rd day, has completely shut down all Inco production of nickel. LME investors, already nervous, received this news by raising the price of nickel to $4.22/lb, after some profit taking this AM.
6/4  -  LME market opens quietly with little movement. No talks scheduled at Inco. Investors greeted Norilsk news of extra shipments by stabilizing price of nickel. Third largest supplier of nickel, Falconbridge of Canada announces it can not help with extra production at this time and can only meet current contracts.Nickel currently at highest level since 2000. Increases in nickel are in check by two major factors - concern over a short strike and the fear of the huge drop anticipated after an agreement would be reached. An agreement could easily see prices plummeting to the $3.60/lb range. Market watchers agree that how high it will go is determined by the length of the strike.
6/5  -  LME broker IFX said in a daily report:"...nickel is in the early stages of establishing a reasonable support base for a re-challenge of the $10,300 level ($4.67/lb) last seen three years ago, although an ear will be kept to the ground concerning events with Inco. "The first hurdle to overcome will be the resistance at $9,480/520 ($4.30/lb), although once this level is broken we can expect a glut of fund/technical/CTA buying as the market attempts to fill the void to the upside." News from Inco - no talks scheduled between company and union. LME closes st $4.26/lb.
6/6  -  LME early trades jump over psychological barrier of $4.30/lb but traders expect some profit taking before day's end. Most predict too early in strike for nickel to sustain this high a value. Growth in nickel imports to China expected to fall to 30% this year, down from 46%  last year - primarily blamed on SARS. Industry experts predict Inco strike will have most adverse reaction in Far Eastern markets such as Taiwan and South Korea, large customers of Inco.
6/6  -  As predicted, profit takers ruled the afternoon LME market and nickel closed the week at $4.17/lb.
6/9  -  Nickel markets open quietly as traders take wait and see attitude. Strike in 9th day at Inco with no talks scheduled
6/9  -  Nickel profit takers continue to sell - LME closes at $4.11 - baffling many industry analysts.
6/9  -  National Marine Manufacturers Association website reports 3% less boats (852,400) were sold in the US in  2002 than the previous year.
6/10 -  LME nickel edges up slightly to $4.16/lb.
6/12  - Norilsk Nickel of Russia announces it will release 24M tones of nickel to help offset the los from Inco. Inco still has no scheduled talks with its union after 12 days of a strike. This release will help stabilize the nickel market and may actually bring it down for a short period.
6/12 - After the announcement by Norilsk, nickel price plummet at LME and end at $4.01/lb. The situation in the US is more volatile with Reuters reporting the premium's on US nickel averaging nearly $.25/lb higher than LME, with one recent rush order quoted at $.55/lb over LME. One trader advises with the DLA (US government) no longer stockpiling nickel, Inco supplies deleted, and Norilsk stockpiles nearly gone (this is disputable as some believe Norilsk still secretly holds another 40M tones) , past economic conditions that forced users keep low inventories could cause huge deficits if the strike continues much longer. His deep concern is not the general consensus though, as the drop in prices reflect LME traders are not as pessimistic.
6/13  -  Barclay's predicts prices should settle down to $3.53 to $3.90/lb range with an anticipated surplus in nickel market. They doubt any more spikes in pricing will happen unless Inco strike is extended. Based on anticipated growth in stainless market and very little new production coming on stream in the next few years, Barclay's is also predicting nickel to stay strong thru 2005.
6/13  -  LME Nickel ends week at $3.93/lb.
6/16  -  LME slides to $3.83/lb in early morning trading. Investors extremely nervous about impact of the release by Norilsk of 24M tones of nickel last week. EU producers also advising they will be cutting nickel production during third quarter as worldwide usage falls. This announcement made during the Inco strike is sending mixed signals, which is causing  confusion among nickel traders. Stainless scrap dealers in Europe are bracing for the possibility of  falling nickel prices later this summer, especially if Inco settles their strike and begins production.
6/16  - LME nickel closes day at $3.83/lb.
6/17  - LME opens with all metals showing minor gains. Nickel up $.05/lb in early trading. Looking for any reason to justify higher prices, in light of the Inco strike, traders noticed that Japan and Korea had successfully re-negotiated price increases on stainless to China yesterday. With inventories down  and nickel up, this is possible evidence that worldwide stainless usage is better than earlier believed. The prices China will now be paying are the second highest paid during the last 5 years. WMC Resources Corp. Ltd, Australia's largest producer of nickel, has advised its Far Eastern customers that it will be unable to help pick up the slack of lost nickel supply caused by the Inco strike. Inco was able to win a court injunction against its union yesterday, which allows the union to picket but demands it discontinue blocking entry to Inco' plants. No talks scheduled
6/17  - LME closes at $3.95/lb.
6/18  - Inco advises Canadian paper it has no immediate plans to return to bargaining with union.
6/19  -  After closing at $3.97/lb yesterday, nickel slid on profit taking and news of a firming US dollar in early morning trading to $3.91/lb. Japan reported output of hot roll stainless was down 2.7% from same time last year. China Iron and Steel Association reports that production of nickel based stainless increased by 32.8% during the first four months of 2003 over the same time last year. This could reflect the SARS epidemic effects on stainless production in China will be minimal. Another mixed signal for nickel  traders!
6/19  -  LME nickel closes same as yesterday - $3.97/lb
6/20  -  No news is good news for those wanting nickel to fall. Nickel tumbled as traders sold short and ended the week at $3.86/lb. UBS cut Inco stock recommendation from buy to neutral.
6/23  -  Reports of a possible cut by the Fed of the US prime lending rate drove all metals stock down, including nickel which closed at $3.73/lb
6/24  -  Nickel closes up at $3.79/lb with little activity as traders await interest rate announcement due  tomorrow.
6/25  - All eyes were on the US to see if the Fed would drop the interest rate for the 13th time. With the announcement due after LME closing, nickel saw little activity, ending up only $.02 over Tuesday. Traders believe a lowering of the interest rate again will reflect greater economic trouble in the US than originally perceived. On the heels of a report out today that new orders for May in the US dropped .3%, a drop in the interest rate of 1/2% could drive metals down further. Nickel is showing some stability  over other traded minerals with the Inco strike nearing its first month.
6/26  -  Fed drops interest rate 1/4 of 1%. As metals market had already adjusted in anticipation of this, very little movement is affected. China reports it imported 2.6 million tones of stainless steel last year, making it not only the largest importer, but showed a 39% increase in stainless imports over 2002.
6/27  -  LME nickel ends week at $3.84/lb. With long liquidation completed, traders expect nickel to gain  ground again during the next few weeks.
6/30  -  Nickel market opens lower on reports the European stainless scrap market pricing has fallen 10% in the last few weeks, due to weak user demand. In what one trader described as "the lap of the gods" the nickel market is failing to show the huge increases feared would come because of the Inco strike. Reports from Canada show no talks scheduled between Inco and its union.     

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