nickel

Good news for stainless consumers, the nickel price dropped to its lowest level in six years this week as London Metal Exchange 3-month nickel price declined $390, or more than 3%, to $12,540 a metric ton according to the FT.

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After hitting a high in May of last year on expectations that Indonesia’s export ban would create a shortage, the market has declined as the deficit has failed to materialize. Indonesian supply was simply replaced by increased supply from the Philippines, up 23% in 2014 from a year before.

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This week, the 3-month LME nickel price fell to its lowest level since 2009. It’s certainly not the first industrial metal to hit a 6-year low this year.

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There has been a lot of talk about Nickel’s supply side. Indonesian authorities have not changed their minds about refusing to export raw ore and the ensuing ban on exports of nickel ore to China continues. There is no flow of material between the two countries.

NPI Demand Drops

However, it’s important to remember that China’s nickel pig-iron producers had built up significant quantities of stocks prior to the January 2014 ban, compensating for the supply decrease. At 2 million metric tons, imports of Philippine ore this year are slightly higher than last year but are still nowhere near enough to offset the loss of Indonesian supply.

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MetalCrawler crawls the web for the latest metal news.

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Today we have nickel news from Russia, Nucor has cut its own forecast and Turkey has been found to be illegally dumping steel for oil line pipe in the US.

Russia’s OAO Norilsk Nickel, the world’s second-largest nickel and largest palladium producer, is considering a buy back of its shares to support its stock, Interfax news agency quoted Vladimir Potanin, its chief executive, as saying on Thursday. No decision has been made yet, said Potanin, Norilsk’s co-owner and Russia’s richest man.

Nucor Cuts Forecast Due to Cheap Imports

Nucor Corp., the top US-based steelmaker, cut its profit forecast for the first quarter, saying higher imports were hurting steel prices. Nucor expects imports to slow down in the second quarter, but remain at “excessively high levels”, the company said on Thursday. The company’s shares fell as much as 6% in morning trading.

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Nickel, aluminum, lead and tin are four base metals that are testing their ground.

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These metals are trying to find support in a bearish commodity environment. If they fall below these key levels, they will be hitting 6-year lows and from there we could see these metals diving further as copper recently did as soon as they break the floor.

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An article by a colleague of mine at our sister publication SpendMatters highlighted the plight of Cuba following 50 years of isolation under communist Fidel Castro’s regime.

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The economy has been stuck in a time bubble with virtually no external investment and very limited export markets, resulting in a stagnation that has left the population well-educated but ridiculously poor by modern standards. Although Cuba isn’t blessed with untold riches in terms of natural resources it does have significant nickel reserves, and managed with soviet help to be a substantial nickel exporter in previous decades.

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Welcome back to the MetalMiner Week-In-Review, now reporting live from Australia’s University of Queensland. Okay, not really, we would just like to talk about the research being done there in phytomining. What’s phytomining, you ask?

FREE Download: The Monthly MMI® Report – covering the Stainless/Nickel markets.

Harvesting valuable metals from plants. Growing plants containing nickel, zinc and cobalt—some of our favorite mined minerals—and harvesting them above ground, not below.

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For months now, we here at MetalMiner have, just like the rest of the metals world, been extolling the virtues of investing in nickel, the alloying metal in stainless steel. Since January, nickel was the stand-out performer on the London Metal Exchange as that’s when Indonesia, previously the largest raw nickel ore exporter to China and other industrialized nations, banned shipping out its ore in an attempt to grow the domestic industry.

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Not surprisingly, nickel gained and gained, weathering London Metal Exchange corrections and climbing to heights unseen since the heady days of 2010. All the while, though, MetalMiner Editor-At-Large Stuart Burns was quietly warning that the shortage of nickel pig-iron ore, China’s favorite kind, could be the equivalent of the Fountain of Youth, the Yeti or MC Hammer’s Comeback Tour. A myth.

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In case you’ve been living in a cave, Nickel’s been climbing the LME like King Kong up the Empire State Building this year.

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Well, okay, at least King Kong at an affordably priced miniature golf course. Indonesia accounted for about 15% of global nickel supplies in the world at the time the ban went into effect.

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Nickel still seems to be in oversupply despite the Indonesian ore ban. Nickel stocks in LME-registered warehouses hit a record of nearly 318,000 tons last week.

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Still, Standard Bank and others are predicting that nickel’s availability may become restricted as aluminum’s already has been.

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Indonesia’s resource extraction industry is a prime example of how confused and costly resource development can be when governments do not have a clear strategy or show consistency.

FREE Download: The Monthly MMI® Report – covering the Stainless/Nickel markets.

Billions of dollars of investment in alumina refiners is on the go-slow route following a legal challenge to the government’s mineral export ban imposed five months ago a Reuters report states.

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