The most-traded July nickel contract on the SHFE traded at 106,920 yuan ($17,020) per tonne as of 11.55am Shanghai time, climbing 2,170 yuan per tonne from Wednesday’s close.

Base metals prices on the SHFE are benefitting from follow-through strength this morning after prices rallied on the London Metal Exchange on Wednesday, with investors continuing to grapple with the fallout of the United States’ sanctions on Russia.

“Industrials were higher with the impact of the sanctions against Russia continuing to permeate through the market, as investors rush to secure supply,” ANZ Research noted on Thursday.

“Nickel prices surged… on concerns that the metal may be caught up in any further sanctions,” it added.

On April 6, the US Treasury Department announced sanctions on Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska's assets, including UC Rusal. This has in turn led to concerns in the nickel market due to Deripaska's Rusal holding a 27.8% stake in Norilsk.

“I think it is fear rather than fact at this stage. Given what has happened in aluminium, and that nickel also has a significant Russian share of global production, it is not surprising that people would seek to reduce exposure to that risk,” Guy Wolf, global head of market analytics at Marex Spectron, told Metal Bulletin.

Meanwhile, a decline in Vale’s nickel production in the first trading quarter was another bullish element that has underpinned nickel prices, according to Metal Bulletin analyst Andy Farida.

Total nickel production fell 17.9% which comes to 58,600 tonnes against the 71,400 tonnes in the corresponding months of 2017 while the company aims to optimize margins by placing non-competitive mines on care and maintenance.

In addition, mine outlook from the world's second largest miner remains hazy after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was said to be considering extending the ban on open-pit mining, which has been in place since April 2017, to next year.

Base metals prices
  • The SHFE June aluminium contract price jumped 410 yuan to 15,340 yuan per tonne.
  • The SHFE June copper contract price climbed 630 yuan to 51,800 yuan per tonne.
  • The SHFE June lead contract price rose 225 yuan to 18,395 yuan per tonne.
  • The SHFE June zinc contract price soared 570 yuan to 24,460 yuan per tonne.
  • The SHFE May tin contract price fell 260 yuan to 145,430 yuan per tonne.

Currency moves and data releases
  • The dollar index inched 0.04% higher to 89.63 as of 11.55am Shanghai time.
  • In other commodities, the Brent crude oil spot price rose 0.21% to $73.90 per barrel as of 11.55 am Shanghai.
  • In equities, the Shanghai Composite increased 0.97% to 3,121.51 as of 11.55am Shanghai time.
  • Data of note today includes the European Union’s current account, retail sales from the United Kingdom and the Philly Fed Manufacturing Index, unemployment claims and natural gas storage from the US.
  • In addition, US Federal Open Market Committee members Lael Brainard, Randal Quarles and Loretta Mester are speaking.

LME snapshot at 11:55am London time
Latest three-month LME Prices
  Price ($ per tonne) Change since previous session's close ($)
Copper 7,057 35
Aluminium 2,641 104
Lead 2,394 17
Zinc 3,290 25
Tin 21,550 75
Nickel 15,750 475

SHFE snapshot at 11:55am Shanghai time
Most-traded SHFE contracts
  Price (yuan per tonne) Change since previous session's close (yuan)
Copper (June) 51,800 630
Aluminium (June) 15,340 410
Zinc (June) 24,460 570
Lead (June) 18,395 225
Tin  (May) 145,430 -260
Nickel  (July) 106,920 2,170

Changjiang spot snapshot on April 19
  Range (yuan per tonne) Change (yuan)
Copper  51,870-51,890 940
Aluminium 15,070-15,110 360
Zinc 24,850-25,850 650
Lead 18,450-18,650 200
Tin  146,000-147,000 1,000
Nickel  106,000-106,200 2,850