Nickel Caps Third Weekly Gain as China Bought Before Import Ban

Feb 21, 2014 2:17 pm ET

Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Nickel capped a third weekly gain, the longest rally this year, on signs that China, the largest consumer, boosted purchases from Indonesia before last month’s ban on shipments of unprocessed ores.

China’s imports from Indonesia jumped to 6.12 million metric tons in January from 3.99 million tons a year earlier, the General Administration of Customs said today in Beijing. Chinese government agencies and domestic producers met Feb. 13 to consider ways to counter the impact of the Indonesian ban imposed on Jan. 12, which is choking off supply.

“Although China has a large stockpile of nickel-containing ore from Indonesia, that stockpile is only going to last until the second half of this year, at which point the actual supply and demand balance is probably going to tighten a lot,” Patricia Mohr, a commodity market specialist at Scotiabank in Toronto, said in a telephone interview. Prices are “going to move up over the coming year,” she said.

Nickel for delivery in three months settled unchanged at $14,365 a metric ton at 5:50 p.m. on the London Metal Exchange, ending the week 0.8 percent higher. Prices are up 3.4 percent this year, after tumbling 19 percent in 2013.

“Now that the ban is in place and raw material is no longer leaving Indonesian shores, its effect is slowly beginning to be felt,” Barclays Plc analysts including Gayle Berry, Nicholas Snowdon and Sijin Cheng, wrote in a report today. “China may seek to import more refined and/or ferronickel, in our view, though possibly not until later when port ore stocks are lower and domestic nickel supply tighter.”

Copper for delivery in three months was also unchanged at $7,155 a ton ($3.25 a pound) in London. On the Comex in New York, copper futures for delivery in May slipped less than 0.1 percent to $3.26, after dropping as much as 0.5 percent.

Lead and tin gained in London. Aluminum and zinc fell.

--With assistance from Agnieszka Troszkiewicz in London. Editors: Millie Munshi, Joe Richter