The LME nickel price plummeted from nearly US$29,000 per tonne on March 5 to just above US$25,000 per tonne on March 15. This will create negative pressure on stainless steel transaction values in the near term. In Europe, the alloy surcharge for type 304 flat products in April is down by between €76 per tonne (ThyssenKrupp Nirosta) and €102 per tonne (Aperam) compared with the March figures.
Many customers had, since the beginning of the calendar year, been either restocking or buying more than their immediate requirements as they anticipated effective prices rising through the first half of 2011. This led to healthy ex-mill sales volumes and made it difficult to quantify the upturn in real demand. However, as buyers have been able to foresee lower transaction figures in the near future, or because they are cautious of price volatility, purchasing activity has slowed to a crawl in many countries in recent weeks.