Foodservice Equipment Reports

Uncertain Outlook Pushes Most Metal Prices Lower

If there’s any happy effect of the recent economic uncertainty, it’s that prices for most commodities used widely in foodservice equipment and supplies have fallen during the past three months, as buyers and traders try to calculate the effect of falling demand. On the other hand, many E&S manufacturers note that prices for most materials are still running well ahead of prices seen last year at this time.

The MEPS Int’l. North American 304 Stainless Steel Index fell to $3,884 a ton in August, down from $4,074 a ton in July and well off the recent peak of $4,653 a ton in April. This indexed price is still nearly 7% higher than at this time last year. The North American MEPS Composite Carbon Steel Index fell to $856, down from $899 in July, but still 12.7% higher than the September average in 2010.

Prices for nickel, aluminum and zinc are also running lower, as the economic uncertainty over the summer drove nearly all commodities sharply lower. Natural gas prices have also fallen this summer.

Of course, not all the news is for lower prices. Prime Times, the e-newsletter published by Prime Advantage, the manufacturers’ buying cooperative, reported a slight increase in nickel surcharges for September, though it expects some softening for October. There is also upward pressure on carbon steels, as mills try to impose price increases during contract season.