Nickel market tightens as China lifts imports – by Andy Home (Sudbury Star/Reuters – December 7, 2021)

LONDON — London Metal Exchange (LME) nickel stocks have been falling relentlessly since April of this year. Exchange inventory has slumped to 110,688 tonnes from 264,606 tonnes over the last six months with almost half of what is left canceled in preparation for physical load-out.

LME time-spreads have been tight since the middle of October. The cash premium hit $190 per tonne last month and was still a wide $141 at Friday’s close. (On Monday, it was selling for a little more than US$9 a pound.)

Some of what is leaving the LME’s warehousing system is heading for China. The country’s imports of refined nickel – the key metal mined in Sudbury – have accelerated appreciably since April with the cumulative January-October tally of 208,000 tonnes up 96 per cent on the same period last year.

China’s recent import appetite is now stretching availability in a market already caught out by the strength of demand this year. China’s imports of refined nickel were 35,500 and 34,500 tonnes in September and October respectively, the highest monthly tallies since December 2017.

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