The supply demand outlook for nickel remains highly uncertain — banks and analysts at least agree on that. Many believe nickel demand, having slumped this year, to have bottomed and that the metal could post a modest upswing next year.
HSBC reports that China posted practically no growth (+1.4%) in stainless steel production (by far the largest market for nickel) in 2012, but is expected to pick up in 2013.
Stainless steel production was actually down in Europe and the Americas this year, but a lower nickel price encourages the use of nickel-bearing steels and in particular austenitic grades, a trend that has seen the ratio of austenitic to total stainless grades increase from 72.1 percent to 73.3 percent during this year.
Although smaller in total demand, the increase in nickel use from non-stainless applications has increased the most rapidly, by 8 percent this year.
Taken as a whole and against the backdrop of slowing global GDP growth, even outright recession in some quarters, nickel demand has held up reasonably well responding to the stainless cycle rather than directly to GDP trends.
The swing factor has been and will continue to be nickel production. New mines have faced a number of challenges, cumulatively reducing the expected contribution they will make leading up to the middle of the decade. An interesting graph from HSBC shows how estimates have been progressively reduced over the last 12 months by some 20 percent:
For the rest of this article, please go to the Metal Miner.com website: http://agmetalminer.com/2012/10/29/have-nickel-prices-bottomed/