LONDON, April 20 (Reuters) – Sanctions fever has spread to nickel. With Russian aluminium producer Rusal imploding in the wake of U.S. sanctions against its oligarch owner Oleg Deripaska, attention is now turning to the status of another Russian industrial powerhouse, Norilsk Nickel.
Deripaska is a 27.8 percent shareholder in Norilsk, while the oligarch behind the world’s number two nickel producer, Vladimir Potanin, is himself on a U.S. Treasury Department list of Russians deemed to be close to the Kremlin.
Fears that Norilsk might follow Rusal down the U.S. sanctions path have sent London nickel prices on an extraordinary rollercoaster ride. But this was a market primed for an explosive breakout, with all sorts of technical drivers kicking in once it started rallying.
Right now there is no imminent danger of Norilsk being pulled into the Rusal sanctions and the speculative froth is already blowing off an overheated market. But nickel’s shake, rattle and roll is a sign of changing times.
Industrial metal markets have spent the past decade tracking the shifting policies of just one country, China. The eruption of U.S. policy risk and global geopolitical risk injects something completely new and different into market calculations.