LONDON: Nickel prices surged to their price limits on Thursday, spurred by persistent worries about supply because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and possible short-covering in thin trading volumes.
Aluminium, which is also produced in Russia, gave up early gains. Trading in other base metals was lacklustre in low volumes as investors held back and oil prices see-sawed.
“A lot of people are sitting on the sidelines, pulling back the risk, not wanting to tie up their capital financing metal. They want to keep hold of cash so they can ride out this storm,” said Tom Mulqueen, head of research at Amalgamated Metal Trading.
“More broadly, there are concerns about financing for trade houses, larger margin requirements across commodities, and this is all a deterrent to risk appetite.”
Benchmark nickel on the London Metal Exchange (LME) jumped by its daily price limit of 15% in early trade to $37,325 a tonne and held that level until the close of ring trading. In Asian trading, nickel on the Shanghai Futures Exchange, also hit its upside limit, climbing 17% to 233,710 yuan ($36,666.14) a tonne.
LME nickel prices jumped to record highs above $100,000 a tonne on March 8 as China’s Tsingshan Holding Group bought large amounts to reduce its short positions in the metal. A trader said that Tsingshan could be back in the market this week seeking to cut positions.
A Tshinghan representative could not be reached for immediate comment outside of Asian business hours. Russia supplies about 10% of the world’s nickel, used to make stainless steel and electric vehicle batteries, and also produces about 6% of the world’s aluminium.
LME aluminium dropped 1.5% to $3,600 a tonne by 1710 GMT after climbing 4.2% a day earlier. Prices lurched higher on Wednesday 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.
Russia might look to its giant neighbour to replace Australian alumina supplies cut off by sanctions, but Chinese aluminium smelters need all the feedstock they can get, analysts say. MMG Ltd said it has secured approval from Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines to expand its Las Bambas copper mine despite ongoing outrage from local indigenous communities.
In other metals, LME copper fell 1.1% to $10,323 a tonne, zinc gave up 1.8% to $4,025.50, lead slid 3.2% to $2,343.50 but tin climbed 1.4% to $42,660.