Market trends for stainless steel

Take a closer look at the current market development for stainless steel and stay updated on the situation within CBAM, the price development of raw materials, energy and transportation as well as the availability of the different product groups. Read our market analysis here.

General market trends

As of 2024, the market has experienced a promising beginning in terms of tonnage sold. However, uncertainties persist regarding the future developments of the stainless steel industry. Prices for flat-products and welded tubes are slightly increasing, bars in India will soon follow due to the high scrap-prices and the freight-situation in the Red Sea. It’ll be interesting to see how China restarts after The Chinese Yuan Renminbi period and if demand there also starts picking up again, which would then also lead to higher prices in exports.

In the following we will give you insights into the different topics related to our industry and some guidance in this market.

Raw materials

Nickel (LME 3 month)
Nickel shows a stable start into 2024, which hasn’t been usual in recent years where Nickel has always been the volatile raw-material in the pack. Currently coming with app. 17.000 $/ton. (28.02.24) it remains on the same level we have more or less seen in the last three months. Rumors have it that the mining companies will not be able to work profitable when Nickel goes below 16.000 $/to., but this only goes for the mining outside of Indonesia. And since Indonesia has become the biggest supplier for Nickel in the world, the offer is still good and in line with the demand – even though the Nickel type being produced in Indonesia is of a lesser quality when it comes to producing stainless steel.

The price for Chromium is still fixed for Q1/2024 with a level of 1.44 $/lb. – giving a forecast on this raw-material is rather difficult. Rumors say there is a good capacity of Chromium matching the demand in the market, at the same time we still hear reports about critical energy-supply in South Africa making life very difficult for the Chromium production.

After the rallye in the beginning of 2023 we see Ferromolybdenum being rather stable in the start of 2024 with values between 45.000 – 47.000 €/to.

This doesn’t drive prices up yet, but makes planning and pricing much easier compared to the situation we’ve had one year ago.


In 2023, there was a lot of talk about CBAM. Now that the system is set up and online platforms are running, we can see the actual work involved in this measure. It's important to know that at Damstahl, we generally support EU measures. However, we believe that the way CBAM is implemented needs to be more user-friendly and much easier to work with.

Fortunately, as part of our commitment to the green agenda, Damstahl began collecting CO2 data from suppliers three years ago. While this doesn't automatically mean complete preparedness for CBAM, it has given us in-depth insights into the data. This enables us to assess and make use of the information provided effectively.

Freight situation

Road transportation
A lot of disturbances such as cancellations and delays have characterized the market of road transport across Europe at the beginning of 2024.

In January, Germany experienced widespread strikes and protests, primarily concentrated at key transportation hubs. One notable incident occurred when the entrance to the Port of Hamburg was obstructed for an extended duration. These events were part of a series of coordinated protests addressing issues related to wages and working conditions. The German Train Drivers' Association (GDL), the German Farmers' Association (DBV), and the Association for Road Freight Transport, Logistics, and Disposal (BGL) orchestrated parallel actions, resulting in disruptions across various modes of transportation.

There was also the general strike in Finland in February, which was launched in protest against the Finnish government's labor market reform and cuts. Here, transportation and logistics hubs were also targeted. Spain were hit as well, where farmers blocked the roads with their tractors.

Sea freight
The Red Sea issue has been addressed by rerouting container ships around the southern tip of Africa. Shipping companies, including Maersk, anticipate that Red Sea shipping won't resume this year and are adjusting their schedules accordingly. Unfortunately, this means extended transit times for Asian goods to reach Northern Europe, accompanied by an increased carbon footprint.

Several industries in the supply chain are being ‘saved’ by the continued low demand from their customers, so "empty shelves" as during the Corona era are not expected despite a longer transit time.

The situation has led to a significant surge in freight rates. Although there were minor declines in SCFI rates in the weeks preceding the Chinese New Year, the levels remain relatively high.

Energy costs

Energy costs are no issue at all at the moment – prices for natural gas remain on a stable, but low level which is pretty much in line with what we’ve seen in pre-war times at a level of roughly 23,00 €/MWH delivered to NL . From the mills we also don’t hear any news on increasing costs for energy at the moment – and since winter-season is coming to an end we don’t expect the Energy Surcharges coming back on a short term base.


Scrap prices have been on the rise since the beginning of 2024, primarily influenced by the situation in the Red Sea, which hinders material flow from the EU to Asia. Asian mills are facing challenges in securing the right quantity and quality of scrap for their production. Additionally, the initial impact of CBAM is leading mills to consider higher scrap values to align with lower CO2 limits.

In addition, when some countries put restrictions on exporting scrap through tariffs or quotas, it makes the situation even more challenging. Talking to scrap processors in the EU, we find out that some EU mills are having a hard time getting enough scrap. This is confirmed by an EU mill that has its own recycling unit. At the same time, our partner Ugitech, who supplies bars in the Nordic region, is using a lot of scrap, up to 95%, to cut down CO2 emissions by 70%. This increases the demand for scrap. With all these things considered, keeping an eye on scrap prices and availability becomes really important in predicting what might happen in the stainless steel market. In fact, scrap prices become even more important than nickel in deciding the prices of stainless steel.

News on products

The supply and demand situation in bars is very balanced at the moment. Destocking in 2023 creates some gaps in the warehouses at the Distributors    in the EU, but mill-stocks make it possible to refill them on a short notice. The first mills in the EU are reporting longer lead-times just now – especially looking into forged bars dimensions and material produced in Martensitic grades.

From Asia the lead-times are currently slightly prolonged due to the transit-time of the vessels going west, but the production capacity in Asia is more than sufficient for the current demand-situation coming from the EU.

On the seamless tubes we can see the lead-times and prices being rather stable, which is an interesting fact since these products are less volatile compared to the other mentioned in this newsletter. Therefore the stock and supply-situation is pretty much under control and we’re able to serve demands.

When looking into the situation of welded tubes our tube mills still have relatively high stock volumes which equals good availability and short lead time when we’re talking about commodities.

The overall biggest concern right now for all of the EU tube-mills is the price level which is under their production cost and tubes are being sold under the price of sheets which is clearly not a sustainable way forward which is why the prices are increasing.


In general, 2024 started better than expected and at a slightly higher level than at the end of 2023. Our mills have experienced a good influx of orders, although there has not been much positive feedback from the market. In particular for cold rolling, the order intake has been extremely positive.

Right now we are very excited about whether this will continue or whether it has been the effect of "destocking" at both distributors and end users.

At the same time, we are excited about the consequences of the current strike at Acerinox, where we are of course taking all our precautions and the same with the strikes that have taken place in Finland.


Fittings and flanges
Currently, the availability of fittings and flanges is quite steady. There are no alterations to the lead time, so except for potential issues related to the Red Sea situation, things are relatively unchanged. Prices, however, have started to shift – flanges have already gone up, which is typical as they usually follow the trend of bars. Fittings have been steady for a while, but suppliers are now discussing raising prices, influenced by changes in the tube mills. In summary, there's a consistent supply of fittings, but prices are on the rise at the moment.


After 22 months of dropping stainless steel prices, the situation is now turning around. The basis for price increases consists of many events, such as described through the following headings:

  • The nickel quotation is below a reasonable level and is expected to rise. According to Mintec, the quotation for the coming year will increase to an average range of 18,000 – 22,000 USD/MT, this after a period of quotations which have tested the limit of 15,000 USD/MT
  • The current situation in the Red Sea means longer delivery times and significantly higher prices for products outside Europe
  • A transport strike in Finland could lead to distribution problems from one of the largest works in flat products
  • A strike at Acerinox Spain results in longer delivery times and uncertainty about deliveries
  • As a result, a total of 50-60% of European production of flat products may be affected by supply chain constraints
  • The tube mills are still producing with significant losses, i.e. profile pipes are still sold at prices that are lower than for flat products, which is obviously unsustainable
  • The European bar producers are under enormous pressure from Asia and a falling alloy premium. To maintain European production, it is necessary to reverse the downward trend

Therefore, it’s evident for all the prices to be increased in the coming weeks / months and at Damstahl we already took the first step medio February and will introduce another price increase from 1st of March.


All in all, we are looking into a very exciting 2024, which is already characterized by various geopolitical challenges that add to the uncertainty surrounding the development of the European economy. Fortunately, we see several market segments with growth and we will expand and strengthen our focus on sustainability and digitization in order to be able to create value for our customers and partners in general in 2024 as well.

Want to know more?

Henrik Ørskov

CPO & Supply Chain Director, Nordic