London nickel traders came into work bleary-eyed on Thursday, after unprecedented 2am nickel moves saw many trading in their pyjamas.

European traders were putting orders through in the middle of the night, taking advantage of wild overnight price swings. 

Nickel fell more than $2,500 per tonne after Wednesday’s official settlement, on a wave of selling that began as China’s markets opened at 09:00 local time, 02:00 in London. 

“There must be some bleary eyes at the trading desks this morning. They’ll have done a day’s work already by now!” one producer said, adding: “Glad I’m not a dealer.”

But traders were thrilled to be awake and making money during nickel’s wild night.

“I got up at 2am, and $19,760 was trading. Then it fell $800 in 10 minutes to $18,800 before rallying to $19,200,” one physical trader said.

“It then flash-crashed lower to $18,090 (the 30-day moving average) with long liquidation/systems based selling prior to rallying $1,000 back above $19,000 when I went back to bed!” the trader added.

“We used to trade briquettes – now it seems as though it is only pillows,” a second trader said.

“The last time I saw that much movement at night was at university,” he added.

Nickel traders could not recall anything like the $1,700 move recorded overnight, particularly as high-frequency systems weren’t so prevalent during the 2007 crash.

After last week’s stratospheric rise, nickel has fallen $3,500 since Tuesday and $2,500 since Wednesday’s official settlement, while volumes have surged.

Volumes reached 7,000 lots by 03:00 London time, more than all the other base metals combined, market sources said.

“The previous LME daily record was 9,000 lots until last week. We were at 8,500 lots by 9am, so it is unprecedented,” the second trader said.

“I can’t remember anything like $1,700 in under an hour and especially not in my jammies,” the first trader said.

Read on: ‘You’d better stop sleeping’: LME Select volumes show Asia’s weight