LONDON: Industrial metals rose on Friday with aluminium headed for a record weekly gain and nickel set for its biggest rise since 2009 on worries over supply from Russia.
Benchmark aluminium was trading at record highs on the London Metal Exchange (LME), up 2.8% at $3,819 a tonne in official trading, gaining around 14% for the week.
LME nickel rose 6.5% to $28,650, the highest level since 2011, and has gained around 17% this week.
“The market is in a panic mode in terms of supply,” said Gianclaudio Torlizzi, a partner at consultants T-Commodity, adding prices would keep rising while conflict raged in Ukraine.
RUSSIA IMPACT: Russia produces about 6% of the world’s aluminium, 7% of its mined nickel and 3.5% of its copper.
Russia is also a major producer of natural gas used to generate power. Gas and power prices have shot up, forcing some European smelters of aluminium and zinc to cut output.
Sanctions on Russian individuals and corporates have prompted many banks, shippers and other firms to stop working with Russian companies or goods.
FIGHTING: Russian forces have stepped up their offensive in Ukraine this week.
MARKETS: Global stock markets fell again on Friday.
INVENTORIES: Adding to supply fears are falling metal inventories in LME-registered warehouses.
Aluminium stocks, at 794,150 tonnes, are down from almost 2 million tonnes last March.
Nickel inventories have fallen to 77,082 tonnes from more than 260,000 tonnes last April.
Copper stocks, at 69,825 tonnes, are the lowest since 2005. SPREAD: In a sign of acute supply tightness, the premium for cash nickel over the three month contracts has surged to $736 a tonne, the most since 2007.
METAL PRICES: LME copper was up 0.8% at $10,435 a tonne. It is up about 6% this week and near last year’s record high of $10,747.50.
Zinc was up 2% at $3,999 a tonne and has gained about 11% this week.