LONDON: Nickel prices jumped 15% to their upper limit and zinc and other industrial metals also climbed on Wednesday as disruptions from the Russia-Ukraine conflict and higher energy prices stoked concerns of shortages.

Metals prices extended gains after Russia said it would seek payment in roubles for gas sales from “unfriendly” countries, sending European gas prices soaring and fuelling worries about more smelter closures.

Benchmark nickel on the London Metal Exchange spiked by nearly $3,000 in the span of about 20 minutes and held the 15% gain at $32,380 a tonne by the time closing prices were set.

The LME has decided, however, that no official or formal closing price would be recorded for nickel when it hits its price limit.

“The nickel market is still very much trying to find its feet,” Geordie Wilkes, head of research at broker Sucden Financial, said.

“You’d expect more volatility in the near term with low liquidity, low inventories, higher margins and uncertainty over the Ukraine conflict making this a very tricky trading environment.”

Overall LME volumes were lower than usual as many investors stayed on the sidelines, traders said.

But nickel volumes of over 3,500 lots were largely in line with other major metals, suggesting the market was starting to return to normal after two weeks of chaos.

The world’s top nickel trading venue endured a record price surge on March 8, a six-day trading suspension, and then a restart hit by technical glitches after it launched price limits for the first time.

In other metals, zinc surged 5.8% by 1710 GMT to a two-week high of $4,112.50 a tonne amid worries about further suspensions of smelters in Europe due to high power prices.

Oil prices jumped 5% to above $121 a barrel as weather-related disruption to Russian and Kazakh crude exports via the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) pipeline added to worries over tight global supplies.

Zambia’s Mopani Copper Mines on Wednesday reported a second fatal accident in three days at the mine. Activity at the operation has been disrupted as a result. Germany-based TRIMET became the latest smelter to cut aluminium output in Europe because of higher energy prices.

LME aluminium gained 4.4% to $3,660 a tonne, copper rose 1.6% to $10,428, lead advanced 4.4% to $2,375 and tin added 2.5% to $42,425.


Comments are closed.