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LONDON: Nickel hit its highest in two weeks on Thursday after US inflation figures cooled talk of Fed tapering, while strong consumption and falling stocks underpinned its appeal.

Benchmark nickel prices on the London Metal Exchange (LME) added 1.7% to $19,705 per tonne by 1554 GMT, heading for a third straight session of gains.

Meanwhile, the most-traded September nickel contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange closed 4.6% higher at 146,720 yuan ($22,667.16) a tonne.

"Nickel has one of the most positive short term fundamentals - there are a lot of signs of very good demand," said Citi analyst Oliver Nugent, adding that risk-on sentiment after US inflation data had also boosted prices.

Demand for nickel for making stainless steel, which accounts for the majority of its consumption, has soared, while refined output in top producer China fell 15.7% year-on-year between January and July and by 13.5% in July compared with June, state-backed research house Antaike said.

On-warrant inventories of nickel in LME-registered warehouses fell to 149,388 tonnes, their lowest since March 2020.

In warehouses monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange, nickel stocks were near record lows touched in June at 6,707 tonnes.

Macquarie expects the nickel market to flip to a 100,000-tonne deficit this year from a surplus of a similar margin in 2020 due to higher Chinese demand and supply disruptions, analyst Jim Lennon said.

But nickel supply will likely start to overtake demand in the fourth quarter, which could weigh on prices, he added.

SPREADS: The discount of the LME cash nickel to the three-month price was at $19 a tonne compared with a $45 premium in June.

OTHER METALS: LME copper shed 0.3% to $9,480 a tonne, aluminium slipped 0.6% to $2,573, zinc lost 1.6% to $2,996, lead edged down 0.5% to $2,307, while tin was 0.9% lower to $35,310, after hitting a record at $35,955.

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