Nickel Reaches Two-Year High on Indonesia Ban, China Trade Data

May 08, 2014 3:10 am ET

May 8 (Bloomberg) -- Nickel climbed to a two-year high on concern that Indonesia’s ban on ore shipments is reducing global supplies and as China’s exports and imports unexpectedly rose in April.

The contract for delivery in three months on the London Metal Exchange rose as much as 3.2 percent to $19,255 a metric ton, the biggest gain in almost four months and the highest price since March 2012. Nickel entered a bull market in March and climbed 38 percent this year, making it the best performer on the LME. It traded at $19,50 at 4:03 p.m. Tokyo time.

Indonesia, the top nickel miner, banned shipments of unprocessed ores in January. China’s customs administration said exports rose 0.9 percent from a year earlier, compared with the median estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg for a 3 percent drop. Imports gained 0.8 percent, creating a trade surplus of $18.46 billion.

“Nickel is the most popular metal among speculators on supply concern,” said Chae Un Soo, a metals trader at Korea Exchange Bank Futures Co. in Seoul. The data from China, the world’s biggest metals user, added support, he said.

In Russia, the second-biggest producer of the refined metal, President Vladimir Putin said he’s pulled back troops from the border with Ukraine, even as the U.S. said there was no sign of a withdrawal. Putin called on separatists in the former Soviet republic’s east to postpone a vote on autonomy.

Copper in London added 0.3 percent to $6,674 a ton. The contract for delivery in July on the Comex in New York advanced 0.3 percent to $3.0425 a pound. In Shanghai, futures for delivery in August slid 0.2 percent to close at 46,810 yuan ($7,513) a ton.

China’s imports of unwrought copper and copper products totaled 450,000 tons in April, up 7.6 percent from March and up 52 percent from a year earlier, according to data from the Beijing-based General Administration of Customs. The country’s copper concentrate imports rose 19 percent to 1 million tons in the month from a year earlier, customs data showed.

“While industrial activity has begun to recover moderately, the strength of the import data likely reflected state stockpiling more than a seasonal recovery,” Sijin Cheng, a Singapore-based commodities analyst at Barclays Plc, said in a note today.

On the LME, zinc, lead and aluminum rose, while tin was little changed.