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Superalloys

The good news from the speciality sector is that the strong start to 2023 looks set to continue throughout the year. Superalloy manufacturers are all reporting increased sales and solid order books, with some taking orders as far out as 2025. This demand is beyond pre-COVID order intakes.

The market sector fuelling such strong orders is, of course, aerospace. However, all major superalloy consumers are flourishing at present, with the oil & gas/power generation, medical, 3D printing and nuclear sectors all doing well. 

The aerospace manufacturing supply chain can’t seem to keep pace, not helped by superalloy mills quoting 12- to 18-month lead times. From this, it can be seen that longer-term demand is in a healthy position.

This is great news from a scrap perspective. Amid all the activity within the supply chain, we are seeing an increase in the availability of superalloy scrap. But what does this mean for pricing? Navigating pricing has certainly been tough over the last 12 months and this seems unlikely to change any time soon.

LME nickel has come off its January highs and appears stable for the time being at around the US$ 24,000 per tonne level. Molybdenum brought some excitement to the market at the start of 2023, with China apparently driving supply and demand (molybdenum oxide 57% reached US$ 39.50 per lb); while pricing may have normalized at the time of writing, material availability still seems elusive to the West. And cobalt has played out early 2023 with slow but steady downward pricing; stability is rarely seen in the cobalt market given the level of volatility in the mining of this commodity.

It does seem that as one commodity drama settles down, another is never far away. The new kid on the block is hafnium with prices over US$ 5000 per kg compared to US$ 1400 some 12 months ago - an increase fuelled by robust demand in the electronics and aerospace sectors. 

With all this positivity surrounding demand, let’s not forget the factors that can so easily upset the commodity apple cart. Geopolitical tensions, energy prices and inflationary issues are all still real concerns.