Could Nickel Really Fall Below $10,000 a Metric Ton?

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Nickel on the London Metal Exchange fell to a fresh low this week, trading as low as $10,440 per metric ton on Tuesday.

Free Download: July Metal Price Forecast

The metal is experiencing huge sell-offs as the Chinese stock market plunges. We can’t really put all the blame on nickel since this is not the only metal falling. Weakness in China and a strong dollar keep punishing commodities and, even more stridently, industrial metals.


The monthly Stainless MMI® registered a value of 68 in July, a decrease of 6.8% from 73 in June.

Bearish Fundamentals, Too

Nickel’s supply and demand fundamentals, however, agree with the bearish picture the market is painting. We see a couple of factors weighing on prices:

  • First, the Indonesian government banned unprocessed mineral exports in January. The ban on unprocessed nickel and aluminum exports still remains in place. However, after the country already relaxed restrictions on exports of copper, the Indonesian government is considering a relaxation of export restrictions on aluminum and it’s possible that nickel will be the next unprocessed ore to have its ban lifted.
  • Second, most analysts were expecting that LME stockpiles would level off. However, nickel stockpiles surged in June, adding to concerns that production is outstripping consumption. Although we’ve pointed out before that there is not always a good correlation between stockpiles and metal prices, many people might be pointing out that the underlying demand isn’t that strong.

What This Means For Metal Buyers

As nickel free-falls, prices are approaching the record low levels of 2009. Nickel could be the first base metal hit that floor. Nickel would have to fall another 17%, but with the pace we are seeing prices falling, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this happen at some point…

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The price of Chinese primary nickel declined 11.9% over the month to $14,187 per metric ton. A 7.7% decline for Chinese 304 stainless steel scrap left the price at CNY 8,450 ($1,361) per metric ton. On the LME, the nickel spot price closed the month at $11,675 per metric ton after dropping 6.8%. Following a 6.8% decline, the nickel 3-month price reached $11,710 per metric ton on the LME. The price of Chinese 316 stainless steel scrap fell 3.9% to $2,005 per metric ton.

Chinese ferro-chrome held pat last month at $1,747 per metric ton. Last month was consistent for Chinese ferro-moly, which did not move from $12,400 per metric ton. The price of Chinese 304 stainless coil held steady around $2,689 per metric ton last month. Chinese 316 stainless coil traded sideways last month, staying around $3,817 per metric ton. The Allegheny Ludlum 316 stainless surcharge remained essentially flat for the month at $0.78 per pound.

Free Download: Compare With the June MMI Report

The Stainless MMI® collects and weights 14 global stainless steel and raw material price points to provide a unique view into stainless steel price trends over a 30-day period. For more information on the Stainless MMI®, how it’s calculated or how your company can use the index, please drop us a note at: info (at) agmetalminer (dot) com.

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