Nickel Rises to Three-Week High on Indonesia Ore-Supply Concerns

Feb 19, 2014 2:38 pm ET

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Nickel prices climbed to a three- week high on speculation that a global surplus will shrink amid a ban on exports of unprocessed ores in Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of the metal from mines.

Supplies outpaced demand by 197,000 metric tons last year, the World Bureau of Metal Statistics said today. An industry group in China, the world’s largest nickel user, said yesterday that government agencies met on Feb. 13 with domestic producers on “practical policy proposals” to counter the impact of Indonesia’s ban, which took effect Jan. 12.

“With nickel, everything is pointing to continued supply concerns,” Bart Melek, the head of commodity strategy at TD Securities in Toronto, said in a telephone interview. “There is really not a huge indication that we’re going to see ferro- nickel supplies out of Indonesia anytime soon.”

Nickel for delivery in three months gained 0.4 percent to settle at $14,515 a ton at 5:50 p.m. on the London Metal Exchange. Earlier, the price reached $14,652, the highest since Jan. 24. The commodity climbed for the fourth straight session, the longest rally in four weeks.

Copper for delivery in three months slid 0.2 percent to $7,181 a ton ($3.26 a pound) in London. On the Comex in New York, futures for March delivery were unchanged at $3.2855 a pound.

Housing starts in the U.S. fell 16 percent to an annualized rate of 880,000, the biggest drop since February 2011, government data showed today. The median estimate of 84 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 950,000.

China is the top copper consumer, followed by the the U.S.

Aluminum and tin rose on the LME, while lead and zinc declined.

--With assistance from Agnieszka Troszkiewicz in London and Jae Hur in Tokyo. Editors: Patrick McKiernan, Millie Munshi