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Shanghai nickel prices hit record high on strong demand, low stocks

Prices of nickel on the Shanghai Futures Exchange leaped to their highest on record on Tuesday, supported by solid demand and low inventories across the world.

The most-traded October nickel contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange hit a record 149,870 yuan (US$23,197.89) a tonne, up 21per cent year-to-date.

Three-month nickel on the London Metal Exchange touched its highest since July 30 at US$19,810 a tonne, having risen 17per cent so far this year.

Graphic: Shanghai nickel prices hit record high on solid demand and record low stocks

"Orders for stainless (steel) product extend to the end of the year, primarily due to the strong post-lockdown rebound in demand and COVID-19 related disruption to distribution. Shipping delays have forced consumers to post orders well ahead of need," said Andrew Mitchell, head of nickel research at Wood Mackenzie.

"At the same time expansion of the electric vehicle (EV) fleet is supporting a near doubling of nickel precursor chemical production in China," Mitchell said, adding that global nickel demand is seen rising by almost 18per cent in 2021 from last year.

Stainless steel and EV batteries are the top nickel consuming sectors.

Refined nickel inventories in ShFE warehouses hit a record low of 4,455 tonnes, down 89per cent from a year earlier. Stockpiles in LME warehouses fell to their lowest since January 2020 to 194,466 tonnes.

Graphic: Nickel stocks fall on strong demand from stainless steel and electric vehicles cent202.png

A China-based nickel trader said the high Tuesday prices were partly due to a short squeeze in the market.

"Here is a market short of physical with trade scrambling to cover or get hold of units and which also exhibits a positioning short by our estimate," said Alastair Munro at broker Marex Spectron in a note.

Graphic: Prices of nearby nickel contract leap to high premium over the further month cent203.png

However, nickel might face pressure for the rest of the year due to calls to trim stainless steel output in China on excess supply and power rationing at a time when macroeconomic data is subdued, Wood Mackenzie's Mitchell said.

A wave of automotive cutbacks due to semiconductor chip shortages is likely to reduce nickel demand in the fourth quarter and extend into 2022, he added.

Wood Mackenzie forecast LME nickel prices to fall to US$18,000 a tonne on average in the fourth quarter, from US$19,050 in July-September, with an average just over US$18,000 for the whole of 2021.

(US$1 = 6.4605 yuan)

(Reporting by Mai Nguyen in Hanoi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: Reuters


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