6 things we learned at ISSF Tokyo

Metal Bulletin attended the International Stainless Steel Forum’s (ISSF) 21st annual conference in Tokyo, Japan this week. Here are six things we learned from the event.

1. Global stainless steel consumption is expected to grow at a slower pace in 2017 and 2018 in comparison with the high rate achieved last year.

2. Stainless cold rolled and hot rolled flat steel products remained the two most-heavily traded products in the global stainless steel market in 2016. Cold rolled flat steel made up 47.2% of a total foreign trade volume of 18.51 million tonnes last year, while the share of hot rolled flat steel was 28.7%. These were largely similar to the situation in 2015, when a total of 17.30 million tonnes of stainless steel changed hands in the international arena, of which 47.7% were cold rolled products while 27% were hot rolled products.

3. Yasuo Ishikawa, the manager of Sumitomo Metal Mining’s nickel sales & raw materials department, expects stainless steel scrap consumption to continue to rise in China as more stainless steel becomes available for recycling. He expects scrap-based production of 300-series austenitic stainless steel to make up 54.5% of the total output in China in 20 years, compared with an estimated 3.6% in 2016. As such, he is of the opinion that the price competition between stainless steel scrap and nickel pig iron will intensify in the years to come.

4. High stainless steel production rates and low-cost nickel pig iron in China are the two main factors behind Chinese products’ competitiveness in comparison with those from other countries, Atsushi Yamaguchi, a senior analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities, said. However, oversupply has undermined prices for stainless steel, resulting in poor earnings among Chinese producers, and increasing the need for production cuts in the country, he noted.

5. Delegates expressed the concern over China’s low prices for stainless steel products weighing on those in the rest of the world. However, they expect the Chinese government’s crackdown on induction furnaces and heavily polluting pickling lines to help Chinese producers stabilise prices.

6. John Rowe, the secretary-general of ISSF, expects the usage of stainless steel in the water industry to increase in the coming years. For instance, Japan in recent years has been switching its water supply pipelines to 316-series stainless steel pipe, from carbon steel galvanized pipe or plastic pipe, in order to reduce leakage incidents. He expects other countries to gradually follow suit due to the prevalence of such leakages. Rowe did not provide any estimate for this segment, however.