LONDON, Jan 7 (Reuters) – Well, at least there was nickel. Looking back on 2019 it was nickel that provided most of the thrills and a fair share of the spills in the base metals complex.
The rest of the London Metal Exchange pack was largely moribund. Full-year performances ranged from up 5% (copper) to down 15% (tin) with aluminium, zinc and lead closing December barely changed from the start of January.
The obvious culprit for such a subdued performance was President Trump, given the pervasive uncertainty generated by the United States’ trade stand-off with China.
But deal-or-no-deal uncertainty simply added to the markets’ core malaise, namely the weakest synchronised demand performance since the bad old days of 2008-2009.
Usage flat-lined or fell across the metallic board with, again, the single exception of nickel. Lest electric vehicles bulls get too excited, nickel benefited not from its use in lithium-ion battery chemistry but from China’s super-strong stainless steel sector. Broad-based manufacturing weakness kept the metals in check last year.