The 18 minutes of trading chaos that broke the nickel market – by Jack Farchy, Alfred Cang and Mark Burton (Bloomberg News – March 14, 2022)

It was 5:42 a.m. on March 8 in London when the nickel market broke. At that time of day, bleary-eyed traders are typically just glancing at prices as they swig coffee on their way to the office.

On this day, however, metal traders across the city were glued to a screen, watching the price action on the electronic market, which was already open to accommodate Asian trading. Nickel prices usually move a few hundred dollars per ton in a day. For most of the past decade, they’d traded between US$10,000 and US$20,000.

Yet the day before, the market had started to unravel, with prices rising by a stunning 66 per cent to US$48,078. Now, the traders watched with a mixture of horror and grim fascination as the price went vertical. Already at an all-time high by 5:42 a.m., it lurched higher in stomach-churning leaps, soaring US$30,000 in a matter of minutes. Just after 6 a.m., the price of nickel passed US$100,000 a ton.

For participants in commodities exchanges, a price rally is not necessarily good news. Miners, traders, and manufacturers often use the market to make short bets—that is, to make money when prices fall.

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