Nickel prices settled above $17,000 per tonne on the London Metal Exchange for the first time since March 2013 on Thursday April 10, lifted by the Indonesian ore export ban.

The alloying metal settled at a three-month price of $17,120/140 per tonne, with a high for the day of $17,188, compared with Wednesday's official level of $16,500/505.

“The nickel price doesn’t surprise me. The Indonesian situation [hasn’t changed],” a category I broker told Metal Bulletin.

“It will continue until such time as something changes. It could start hurting [smelters] at some stage. The balance of payments must be terrible,” he added. 

Stocks of nickel were down 1,158 tonnes in LME-listed sheds overnight, to 278,844 tonnes.

“I think there will have to be a stage when even the Indonesian government sees that it has to export something. I don’t know how they will move forward on this,” the broker said.

“To an extent, it ought to be price driven… They will have to take some action to help the balance of payments.”

Aluminium prices also saw a marked rise during Thursday's session, settling at $1,882/82.50 per tonne, compared with $1,822.5/23 on Wednesday.

“Aluminium has been surprisingly steady. I think it’s a reaction to the non-implementation of the [linked load-in load-out] warehousing rule,” the broker said.

“It’s prompted short-covering across the board… The dollar was also weaker by about 50-70 points and that’s underpinning prices.”

Stocks of the light metal were down 3,700 tonnes in LME-listed sheds, to 5,350,750 tonnes, according to the most recent data.

Copper prices were more or less flat, meanwhile, as volumes remained markedly low, the broker added.

The red metal settled at a three-month price of $6,626/27 per tonne, compared with $6,625.50/26 per tonne on Wednesday.

“Copper has only traded 6,800 lots so far. It’s better than [Wednesday] and the day before but it’s by no means excessive,” the broker said.

Chinese import figures were out overnight and showed falls of 11.3% year-on-year, prompting a “normal” reaction from the market, without much involvement from speculators, he added.

Stocks of copper were down 750 tonnes in LME-listed warehouses, to 250,025 tonnes, the latest figures showed.

Claire Hack
Twitter: @clairehack_mb