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. 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.
Waaaaay back in September 2013, our Stuart Burns wrote “the 800-pound gorilla in the nickel market, though, is not solely China’s dominance as the largest consumer… It is China’s domestic nickel pig iron production and that industry’s reliance on Indonesia as almost the sole supply source.”
In January, Indonesia banned unrefined domestic ore exports and after a small hiccup in February due to ore stockpiling, it’s been off to the races ever since for both nickel and stainless steel prices.
- In May, Lead Forecaster Raul De Frutos officially pronounced nickel to be in a bull market.
- Prices stayed high even as the ban hit China hardest.
- The Chinese then got creative, making nickel-pig iron even piggier to skirt the export ban.
- Hope sprung eternal as many thought newly elected Indonesian President Joko Widodo would at least loosen the ban.
- You know what else springs eternal? Nope.
- Miners started showing huge profits, and some looked to sell nickel mining assets at the peak of their profitability.
- Even market corrections couldn’t put a dent in mighty nickel’s armor, as it soared above 100 on the MMI.
That brings us to today. With stockpiles depleted, corrections weathered, investments expertly hedged and the ban still very much intact there is not much more to say about nickel’s improbably climb on the LME. Nickel prices are up 40% on the year with no sign of a real slowdown.