While the carbon steel market tends to grab most headlines with regards to higher prices and tight availability, it’s not the only industrial metal experiencing these conditions.

What is the Price of Stainless Steel?

In the clip below, Nick Webb, Ryerson's director of risk management, commodity hedging, describes why stainless steel prices and margins may be coming under pressure in the coming months. 

The price of stainless steel is influenced heavily by the price of underlying commodities. Here is a look at what is happening with some of them in recent weeks. 

What is the Price of Chrome?

Chrome is short for chromium, which is the primary alloying element in all stainless steels. Stainless steel grades contain anywhere from 16% to 18% chromium.

The price of chrome is anticipated to be up 15% quarter-over-quarter.

What is the Price of Molybdenum?

In the past 6 months, the price of molybdenum (moly) has nearly doubled in price. However, that trend has changed course over the past 30-45 days, with prices coming down nearly 30%.

Moly is a primary alloying element in 316, contributing to its highly corrosion-resistant properties.

What is the Price of Nickel?

Much has been said about the turbulence in the nickel market over the past 12 months. As a result, it has caused major fluctuations in the 304 stainless surcharge. Nickel prices have settled in recent weeks, and as a result we are seeing a flattening out of the 304 stainless surcharge.

LME halted trading of nickel after a short squeeze caused prices to rise 250% to over $50/lb. in the matter of hours.

Nick Webb, Ryerson's director of risk management, commodities hedging, provides a closer look at what happened in this video:

f on some non-CD bar size; check with your supply chain for details.

Prices settled over the summer, but a mini short-squeeze occurred in November, Webb delves into this topic and more in the video below:  

What Are Current Stainless Steel Surcharges?

Like with other metals, the price of stainless steel is driven largely by the price and availability of the commodities that make up the grade. In the case of stainless steel, that includes nickel and chrome.

That price impact is felt by you in form of the stainless steel surcharges. These are additional charges added to the base price per pound of an alloy typically vary by mill. Typically, the base price for each is established using the following:

  • Alloy
  • Production Cost
  • Yield Factor
  • Supply-demand Fundamentals
May prices have settled:
304: 1.2495
316: 1.8981
430: 0.4058

June surcharges are projected as follows:
304 will rise ~ 2 cents
430 will be flat 
316 will fall ~ 4 cents 


The Production Dilemma

In terms of the production-cost factor, look at stainless steel grade 430 as one example. This grade has been in short supply as of late, due in large part to the fact that some domestic mills have reduced their production levels.

Part of that reasoning relates to the additional time and cost it takes to produce this grade. For instance:

  • The 400 series starts with more carbon steel-based scrap, which means it takes much more argon to melt than stainless steel 304, for example.
  • The 400 series spends more time in the melt furnace compared to 304.

In response, some metal buyers turned to the import market, namely China, to get 430 earlier in the year. But as of late, even foreign mills have begun to limit their production for North America due to heavier demand domestically.

The Alloys Behind Stainless Steel Grades

Historically, nickel has had the biggest impact on these surcharges. But chrome has a certain impact as well, as described by Nick Webb, Ryerson’s director of risk management, commodities hedging, below:

But another to consider is molybdenum. This is used as a hardening agent in stainless steel 316 to improve corrosion resistance.


As the price of molybdenum goes up, it impacts that 316 stainless steel surcharge.

What is the Current Price of Stainless Steel?

For a monthly update on the price of stainless steel, as well as that of all other metals, be sure to sign up for Cup o' Joe with Nick Webb. 

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