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LONDON: Nickel prices climbed to three-week highs on Friday as worries about low inventories and potential sanctions against major producer Russia fuelled supply fears.

Benchmark nickel on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was up 0.6% at $24,035 a tonne by 1340 GMT, having earlier touched its highest since Jan. 24 at $24,140.

"The problem is a shortage of nickel on the LME," one trader said, adding that a lot more nickel is due to leave LME-registered warehouses.

Batteries: As well as stainless steel, Nickel is also used to make the rechargeable batteries that power electric vehicles.

Demand from this sector has been strong for some time and is among the reasons behind the depletion of nickel stocks.

Copper edges higher as Russian troops return to base

Inventories: Nickel stocks in LME-registered warehouses have fallen 69% to 83,328 tonnes since April last year.

More pertinent are stocks of bagged briquette, which is easily crushed into small particles and dissolved in sulphuric acid to make nickel sulphate for batteries. Briquette stocks stand at 62,940 tonnes, down 67% since last April.

Cancelled warrants -- metal earmarked for delivery -- at 52% indicate that more nickel is due to leave the LME system.

Spreads: Worries about availability on the LME have created a premium for cash metal over the three-month nickel contract. The premium was last at $400 a tonne, compared with $368 on Thursday.

Other Metals: Copper was up 0.5% at $9,978 a tonne, aluminium slipped by 0.2% to $3,262, zinc fell 0.5% to $3,588, lead ceded 0.5% to $2,335 and tin was up 0.1% at $43,901.

Tin earlier hit a record high at $44,370 a tonne on worries about supplies falling significantly short of demand this year because of pandemic-related disruptions and logistical problems.

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