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2003
Third Quarter


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7/1 -  US Commerce Dept reports US exports of nickel scrap failed to reach the 2000 ton mark for the second consecutive month. LME nickle ends up at $3.76/lb. Japan and India both reporting steel exports to China picking up since WHO announced China SARS epidemic over.
7/2  -  JP Morgan analyst tells Bloomberg.com that nickel may fall farther in coming months. While the Inco strike remains the wild card, economic conditions worldwide are more than offsetting any lowering in nickel inventories and demand is not expected to increase in the North American and European market till 2004. While China remains healthy at present, much of the nickel imported into China for stainless is used in end products that are exported to struggling economies. LME inventories rose to 24,762 tonnes, largest gain in 3 months and nickel prices closes at $3.83/lb.
7/7 -  LME nickel moves up to $3.92/lb as traders took rumors of tight metals market in China over news of worldwide surplus to heart.
7/9  -  Nickel closes at $3.95/lb on LME.
7/10 - LME nickel closes at $3.96/lb losing earlier gains in the day. General Accounting Office releases report in reference to the problem of corrosion on armed forces. Can be read here (pdf).
7/11 - LME nickel closes week at $3.97/lb while metal traders are concerned next week could bring a downward push in some metal markets. Much of the gain this week was "faith-based" beliefs in economic improvement, encouraged by early week world stock market rallies. Nickel may not feel as much downward pressure as Inco unions are still out on strike, now in its 41st day. World Trade Organization rules against US on a complaint by the EU, Japan and six other countries for steel import tariffs put in place by President Bush. US announced immediately it would appeal the decision. The EU has advised it will impose sanctions against the US within 5 days after it loses its appeal, with a final decision due in December.
7/14 - Ferrochrome prices have risen from 23 cents to around 36 cents during the last 6 months. Prices have steadily dropped from highs of 45 cents in mid 1998, due to oversupply. The lower prices over the last two years have driven some producers out of business. 88 percent of global ferrochrome is used in the production of stainless steel, with South Africa the world's largest producer of ferrochrome.
AME Mineral Economics of Sydney Australia, in its annual report on the nickel industry, is predicting boom times ahead for nickel producers. Predicting that demand will exceed production when the world economy recovers, AME predicts prices should average around $4.00/lb by 2005, and could hit as high as $5.00/lB.
LME nickel closes over $4 for the first time since early Inco strike jetters. This on the heels of reports that Inco has softened its stance on the pension part of the contracts. The union remains defiant, advising they will not make the first move to re-start negotiations. The last strike between Inco and its union in 1978 lasted 8-1/2 months. LME nickel closed at $4.03/lb.


World's Largest Producers of Nickel - #1 Norilsk Nickel (Russia) // #2 Inco Ltd (Canada) // #3 WMC Resources (Australia)
Largest  Nickel Reserves can be found in Cuba, New Caledonia, Canada, Indonesia, and the Phillipines
7/15  -  LME nickel drops to $3.96/lb.
7/16 -  WMC Resources, the world's 3rd largest producer of nickel, announces its earlier annual output estimates would be cut by 2000 tonnes, due to maintenance downtime. This announcement was likely made to keep any forseen drop in nickel prices suppressed, and in light of the Inco strike, to keep nickel traders guessing on whether supply will meet demand.
7/17  -  South Africa and London mining companies announce ferrochrome contracts have been negotiated for the third quarter of 2003 with price increases averaging 20% to nearly 50 cents a pound. LME nickel closes at $3.92/lb, after profit takers drive all LME metals down.
7/18  -  Reports from China seem to downplay earlier thoughts that SARS had adversely affected the China economy. China government reports that its GDP for the second quarter of 2003 shows an 8.2% growth over the same time last year, and showed only a marginal dip from the first quarter. China remains one of the healthiest economies in the world.
7/21  -  LME nickel closes at $3.95/lb.
7/22  -  LME nickel closes unchanged at $3.95/lb.
7/23  -  Nickel traded in the $4 range for most of the day, but lost earlier gains upon news Inco had scheduled talks Friday with its striking union. At the closing, nickel was the same as yesterday.
7/24  -  LME nickel jumps to $4.04 on reports Inco denied talks were scheduled Friday and that they had been contacted by the negotiator with the idea only. In fact it was the union that had leaked the possibility to the press. Market watchers are getting nervous again with the publication of the Forbes article titled "Nickel supply crunch seen if Inco strike drags on".
7/25  -  All LME metals were bullish in todays trading after the US Commerce Dept reported durable goods orders shot up in June, rising 2.1% after a fall of 4% in June. LME nickel was especially volatile, after the mediator involved in resolving the Inco strike,. reported he was unable to bring both sides to the table on Friday, as the union had reported was planned earlier this week. LME nickel ended at $4.17/lb.
7/28  -  LME nickel maintains the $4 threshold and closes at $4.15/lb
7/29  -  While analysts say a lot of the market enthusiasm is based on feeling over fact, nickel continues its rise, closing at $4.22/lb.
7/30  -  The International Stainless Steel Forum, held in Berlin, Germany, announced its annual prediction of worldwide stainless usage. They estimate usage will increase globally a mere 4% over last year to 20.88 million tonnes. However, they anticipate 2004 usage to return to former growth levels, estimating an increase of 7.8%.
7/30  -  Nickel falls to $4.14 after profit taking and rumors of informal talks between Inco and its union emerge.
7/31  -  Nickel jumps again as economic indicators from the US show positive signs of an economic recovery. Jobless rates fell, while the Chicago NAPM business index jumped to 55.9, up from 52.5 in June. As long as the strike at Inco continues, positive economic news will drive nickel prices up. LME nickel closes at $4.21/lb after traders expected a down trend today since Inco and its union are having "informal" talks.
8/1  -  LME nickel closes after a quiet day at $4.13/lb.

World's Largest Producers of Stainless Steel in 2002 - # 1 Japan - #2 United States - #3 Germany
8/4  - Last weeks efforts to resume contract negotiations at Inco collapsed over the weekend, but both sides have left the door open for further exploratory talks.
Nickel bucks the trend of all other LME minerals, nudging up to $4.15/lb.
8/5  -  Nickel eases to $4.12/lb on light trading.
8/7  -  Purchasing Magazine reports stainless steel usage in the US is at lowest level in 11 years. Metal Center News reports the overcapacity of US stainless producers and stainless imports, primarily from India, who was exempted from the US anti dumping tariff's, is keeping prices flat while raw material costs are up over last year.Quoting Andrew McElwee, a Carpenter Technology Vice President -"All the element materials we buy are up...Last June, nickel cost $2.74 per pound, now it's over $4. Chromium was 28 cents a pound, now its 44 cents; molybdenum was $2.80, now its $5.85 a pound." The article also discusses the impact of the China market on US prices. Quoting from the article "China's rapid growth has sucked up much of the world's stainless production the past few years, diverting a lot of material from Western Europe and Asia that might otherwise have found its way into the United States. But China has pulled back sharply on overall steel imports this year, shifting trade to other regions." Managing Director Christopher Plummer of Metal Strategies, Inc advised "China is far and away the largest stainless steel consumer and importer. Swings in that volatile market play havoc with markets around the world, including the US stainless market." There are signs that China may be placing larger order for fourth quarter delivery of stainless - which could relieve some of the import pressure on the US stainless market.
8/7  -  Nickel gains after quiet Wednesday closing at $4.18/lb.
8/11 - Nickel ends week on profit taking and slumps to $4.03/lb.
8/12 - Nickel closes at $4.08 in slow trading day.
8/13 - Nickel shows no movement from yesterday. International Nickel Study Group released figures for the first six months. Nickle production increased compared to last year 1.6% (600,800 tonnes compared to 591,100 tonnes last year). Consumption was up 5.6% during the same 6 months (624,900 tonnes compared to 591,900 last year). Consumption increased the most in China and Russia at 16%, while the Western World showed a decreases of 2.2%.
8/13 - Nickel climbs to $4.14/lb.
8/14 - Late trading saw nickel selling at $4.23/lb at the close
8/15 - Japan reports its exports of stainless steel thru first six months of year fell 5.8% compared to last year. LME nickel closes lower at $4.18/lb.
8/18 - Base Metals Analyst Stephen Briggs of Britain's Socgen was quoted in a Reuters article on Friday "With a (nickel market) deficit forecast for next year and probably an even bigger one thereafter, there is some kind of crisis brewing". A base analyst from Australian investment bank Marcquarie was quoted as saying $5.44/lb ($12M tonne) was not out of the realm of possibility. Even with lower usage this year, there was a 50M tonne deficit, offset by the release from Norilsk of 60M tonnes it was holding as collateral for a $200 million bank loan. There are many who feel Norilsk may be "hiding" some extra stock in the hopes of seeing prices go higher. LME inventories are their lowest in 2 years.
8/19 - LME nickel ends the day after steady gains all day, ending at its highest level in 3 years - $4.39/lb.
8/20 - With world nickel inventories at their lowest levels since 1989, the ongoing nickel strike, the day and a half shutdown at Falconbridge due to the power outage last week, analysts predict nickel prices will test the $10M tonne level in the near future, or $4.53/lb. LME nickel closes at $4.35/lb.
8/21 - On early news that Inco had resumed exploratory talks with its striking union, LME nickel ended the day at $4.34/lb.
8/22 - LME nickel closed the week at $4.33/lb as no news came out of Canada on the status of talks between Inco and its union. London markets will be closed for holiday Monday and trading will resume Tuesday.
8/22 -  Inco and union tell negotiators reporters that while exploratory talks continue, there are no plans to return to formal negotiations to end the 11 week strike.
8/26 -  While LME was closed for holiday Monday, Inco and its union continued their informal talks through the weekend. When an Inco official admitted to the press the talks could be characterized as formal, nickel prices tumbled and closed at $4.26/lb. Update (4:40 pm)- Inco announces it has reached a tentative agreement with its union. Union follows and announces it will recommend a yes vote to its members for a ratification vote to be taken Thursday.
8/27 - Nickel opens and responds quickly to news of an Inco agreement, slipping to under $4/lb before regaining some momentum in early trading. This news comes a day after Japanese and Taiwanese stainless manufacturers raise prices for September shipments of stainless steel.
8/27 - LME nickel ends volatile day at $4.20/lb on hearing news it will take Inco 2 weeks to return to full production after union votes on contract Thursday.
8/28 - LME nickel trades heavily but price remains unchanged at the end of the day. Inco union to vote today with both sides expecting approval of contract and ending of strike.
8/29 - Inco's union voted overwhelming last evening to accept Inco's 3 year contract offer and will return to work today after 13 weeks on strike. Inco advises it will be 2 weeks before production will return to full capacity.
8/29 - LME nickel closes up at $4.26/lb.
9/2  - LME nickel soars on fears of upcoming shortages. Ends the days at $4.47/lb. Many traders predict the $10,000 tonne barrier could be reached in the next few weeks, as long term players are paying the higher prices and not just short term traders. Economic news from China, America, and now Europe all reflect an increase in factory orders.
9/3 -  LME nickel ends the day at $4.50/lb after  LME makes some precautionary moves to slow the market down. Experts expect some downward correction in the next few days, although some still say the $10M tonne barrier is not out of the question. Traders seem to be responding to reports of a severe shortage of nickel the week of Sept 10 thru 17th.
9/4 -  LME nickel falls to $4.36/lb as nickel inventory figures come in better than expected. Traders had expected this correction, as the climb during the last few days was considered by many to be extreme. Traders were also reacting to a statement out of Norilsk Nickel. During the first 7 months of 2003, Norilsk reported it had shipped 175M tonnes of nickel, compared to 117M tonnes during the same period in 2002. What made the traders nervous though, was Norilsk refusing to answer questions on whether it had additional stockpiles of nickel.
9/5 - LME nickel fell in morning trading, but rebounded late in a flurry of buying and ended the week at $4.44/lb
9/8 - Dont expect to see any drop in 316 Stainless Steel prices in the near future. Besides nickel hitting 3 year highs, molybdenum has risen over $1 since the beginning of the summer, selling at $6.30/lb on Friday. Molybdenum had spent so many years at low prices, many producers went out of business or discontinued production. Now the world is facing a tight market, with demand exceeding supply in some areas of the world. Chromium saw little activity last month, selling in the $.46 to $.50/lb range. LME nickel was mostly stabile on light trading closing at $4.43/lb.
9/9 -  Nickel closed down at $4.40/lb after a day of profit taking dragged most LME metal prices down.
9/10 - Nickel continued to sneak downward, closing at $4.38/lb as LME nickel inventories reached their highest level in 3-1/2 years.
9/11 - After 2 days of slipping backwards, nickel rebounded today, and at one point almost topped the psychological $10M/tonne barrier. It closed at $4.46/lb.
9/12 - While negative economic news from the US had a negative affect on all metals, LME nickel held most stabile, falling back to end the week at $4.44/lb.

According to figures from the US Geological Survey published in January 2003, 57% of nickel consumed in the US is recycled nickel. Since the US no longer has any nickel mines of its own, stainless producers in the US must import their nickel, or use recycled nickel. Canada, Norway, Russia, and Australia are the biggest nickel suppliers to the US. 

9/12 - A new report published by Roskill, a British market analyst, forecasts price ranges in $2.26/lb to $4.00/lb range over the next 3 years. While the market is currently experiencing a shortage, modernization at Norilsk, anticipated cost cutting by Inco and Falconbridge in upcoming years, and new capacity should help bring production more into line with demand. They also anticipate world demand for stainless steel to grow by approximately 4.8% annually, led by China.
9/15 - Inco estimates that 55M tonnes of new nickel will needed to be mined to keep up with the growing demand for stainless steel manufacturers in the remaining decade. This would equal the amount currently mined from the New Caledonia Goro project. A tall order they estimate will not be met. Supply remains tight.
9/15 - Nickel closes at $4.46/lb after a lackluster day. Some market watchers are finally verbalizing that a drop in prices should be happening soon.
9/16 - Nickel closes unchanged.
9/17 - J.P. Morgan is reported to be predicting nickel prices will average $4.05/lb for 2003, and $4.55/lb for 2004. This compares to the $3.07/lb nickel averaged in 2003 and yesterday's price of $4.46/lb.
9/17 - As predicted on 9/2, LME nickel breaks the $10,000 per tonne mark today for the first time since May 2000. Before closing the price had fallen back to $4.52/lb.  Inco reported yesterday it's production was fully back to speed after a 3 month strike that had it shut down.
9/18 - LME nickel closed over $10M / tonne today and trading stopped at $4.58/lb.

Nickel accounts for as much as 60% of the cost of stainless steel production

9/19 - LME nickel closes with only a slight per ton gain. Closes at $4.58/lb. Triland Metals Ltd, in their weekly report, predicted nickel has yet to hit its highest point.
9/22 - LME nickel continues to climb, closing this session at $4.65/lb.
9/23 - Market watchers predict that nickel will stay above the $10M/tonne mark, at least for the short term. With a 60M tonne deficit still forecast for 2004, market watchers and traders are keeping a keen eye on the world economic condition for any negativity on otherwise positive news.
9/23 - LME slips back to $4.62/lb. Market watchers still say the 21st century record of $4.75/lb in May 2000 is in danger of being topped.
9/24 - The Bush administration reiterates America's "One China" policy and advised Chinese Foreign Minister it does not support Taiwan independence. Taiwan is the world's largest exporter of stainless steel fasteners. WMC Chief Executive Andrew Michelmore is quoted as expressing concern that if nickel prices continue to rise, the demand could falter. The EU imposed a 25% tariff on cold roll stainless steel products imported from the US products, for 6 months, upon which time it will decide whether to rescind or make them permanent.
9/24 - LME nickel closed up at $4.64/lb.
9/25 - A very few market predictors are whispering nickel prices could hit $15M/tonne ($6.80/lb) by early next year if economies keep growing fast. So far, these predictions are rare. Hopefully, they are wrong as this would have a dramatic effect on future stainless steel prices.
9/25 - Traders shrugged off less than positive economic news from US and nickel closed up at $4.66/lb.
9/26 - LME nickel closed down in light trading at $4.59/lb
9/29 - Norilsk advises production is up 10% compared to last year. Tomorrow is end of third quarter and market watchers say adjustment in price is likely as traders sell to clean up portfolio's.
9/29 - LME nickel falls below $10M/tonne in morning trading but rebounds in the afternoon to close at $4.62/lb.
9/30 - LME nickel once again traded below the $10M/tonne mark but closed at $4.57/lb. Norilsk raised its forecast for 2003 production from 218,000 tonnes to 238,000.


Norilsk Nickel in Russia has been called by many an ecological disaster. Each year, 3 huge smelters emmit some 2.8 million metric tons of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere. This is 6 times the emission amount of the entire US non ferrous industry. Life expectancy for males in Norilsk is 50 years old, nine years less than the rest of Russian men. Click here for an article by Life Magazine.    

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