China May Become a Net Importer of Refined Nickel

China may swing back to being a net importer of refined nickel as benchmark prices in London dropped below those in Shanghai for the first time in almost 3 years.

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“Nickel prices in China have been more resilient than those in the overseas market,” Celia Wang, an analyst at Beijing Antaike Information Development Co., told Bloomberg News. “Supply is getting gradually tighter in China, so imports will rise in the coming months as the price gap narrows.”

The spot price in China rose 1% since the end of October on January 15th versus a 7.7% loss on LME contracts. That made it profitable for Chinese traders to import and sell the metal domestically. Net imports were 792 metric tons in November compared with net exports from August to October, according to the latest data available from the country’s customs agency.

Dropping 1.4% on the LME, the nickel 3-month price was the biggest mover on Monday, January 19, closing at $14,425 per metric ton. On the LME, the spot price of nickel fell 1.3% to $14,355 per metric ton. The Indian nickel cash price declined 0.1% to INR 909.00 ($14.69) per kilogram.

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Chinese stainless steel prices were mixed for the day. Chinese ferro-chrome saw little change in its price last Friday at CNY 10,950 ($1,764) per metric ton. The price of Chinese ferro-moly remained essentially flat at CNY 87,000 ($14,014) per metric ton.

The price of Chinese primary nickel inched up 1.1% to CNY 108,700 ($17,510) per metric ton. For the fifth day in a row, the Allegheny Ludlum 316 stainless surcharge remained essentially flat at $1.01 per pound. The price of Chinese 316 stainless coil was unchanged at CNY 23,700 ($3,818) per metric ton. The price of Chinese 304 stainless coil continues hovering around CNY 16,700 ($2,690) per metric ton for the fifth day in a row. The price of Chinese 316 stainless steel scrap remained steady at CNY 12,950 ($2,086) per metric ton.

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