Metals Traders Brace for the Next Big Squeeze as Supply Dwindles – by Mark Burton (Bloomberg News – January 12, 2022)

(Bloomberg) — Industrial metal markets are marching higher again, as production outages and shrinking inventories revive worries about global supplies of some of the key building blocks of the economy and the green-energy transition.

Metals from aluminum to zinc surged in 2021 after the pandemic hit production at mines and smelters, wreaked chaos in global logistics networks, and sparked a boom in demand. In both copper and tin, London Metal Exchange inventory levels collapsed in squeezes that drove spot prices to records in wild trading.

Traders are now zeroing in on a fresh wave of threats to supply and signs of shrinking stockpiles. Nickel futures surged to the highest in a decade this week and a jump in the premium for immediately-available metal is raising concerns about a looming supply squeeze.

Zinc and aluminum production has been throttled in Europe by an ongoing energy crisis, while metal plants in China are getting caught up in the drive to ensure blue skies for the Winter Olympics.

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