LIVE FUTURES REPORT 10/05: SHFE base metals prices broadly up despite looming tariff increase; Ni rebounds 1.8%

With the exception of tin, base metals prices on the Shanghai Futures Exchange were up during morning trading on Friday May 10, with comments by US President Donald Trump insisting a trade deal between China and the United States was still possible providing much needed relief to the market.

This morning’s broad-based strength comes despite the fact that the US is expected to implement a major tariff increase on Chinese imports later today.

A 10% tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods is set to increase to 25% at 12.01am Eastern Time (12.01pm Shanghai time). China has said that it will retaliate if the higher levies are imposed.

But Trump struck a more optimistic tone regarding a trade deal when he said that he had received a “beautiful letter” from Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and will probably speak to him by phone, while also insisting that a trade deal is still possible this week.

“Whether the letter is stunning enough to prevent a tariff increase is a great unknown […] With only hours to ratify the trade deal before the US administration makes good on threats to impose added tariffs on Chinese goods, we are left waiting for the call,” Stephen Innes, head of trading at SPI Asset Management, said.

However, the remarks seem to have been enough to provide some much needed relief to the base metals, which have been under pressure amid rising trade tensions since Trump first announced plans to increase tariffs on Chinese goods at the end of last week.

As a result, base metals prices on the SHFE were broadly up this morning with nickel leading the charge higher.

The most-traded June nickel contract price jumped to 96,810 ($14,198) yuan per tonne as at 10.03am Shanghai time, up by 1.8% or 1,680 yuan per tonne from Thursday’s close of 95,130 yuan per tonne.

That said, the price remains well below a close of 97,810 per tonne on April 30 – the last trading day before Trump announced the plans to increase tariffs.

Trading volumes have been high so far on Friday with around 460,000 lots having changed hands as at 10.03am Shanghai time, which compares with around 408,000 lots at the close on Monday.

Meanwhile, some of the market focus has been diverted from the macro-economic headlines back to the supply-side of the metal.

Positive supply-side developments have also bolstered investors’ outlook for nickel with on-exchange stocks of the metal continuing to trend lower.

Nickel stocks at London Metal Exchange-listed warehouses totaled 170, 436 tonnes on Thursday, down from 182,466 tonnes on April 1.

While, SHFE nickel stocks, at 9,474 tonnes on April 30, remain near their lowest level in around four years.

But aside from trade headwinds, nickel prices remain vulnerable against a backdrop of weak downstream demand from the stainless steel sector.

“Compounding the bearish momentum is evidence that growing supply of stainless steel stocks in China is becoming a major headwind. Ample stocks of stainless steel in China continue to weigh on the demand outlook for nickel. This comes at the time when the supply of nickel pig iron (a lower grade of ferro-nickel) is expected to increase from domestic producers as well as Chinese-funded Indonesian smelters,” Fastmarkets MB analyst Andy Farida said.

Other highlights

  • Tin was the lone SHFE base metal in negative territory on Friday morning. The most-traded September tin contract price on the SHFE dipped 70 yuan per tonne or 0.1% to 146,000 yuan per tonne as at 10.03am Shanghai time.
  • The US dollar index slid 0.04% to 97.39 as at 10.53am Shanghai time
  • In US data on Thursday, the country’s overall trade deficit stood at $50 billion in March, up by $0.7 billion from $49.3 billion in February.
  • The US’ headline and core producer price indices (PPI) – measures of inflation – rose by 0.2% and 0.1% month on month respectively in April, while weekly unemployment claims came in at 228,000 for the week ended May 4 – above a forecast figure of 215,000.
  • In European data on Friday, industrial production out across France, Italy and the United Kingdom as well as manufacturing production and gross domestic product from the latter is of note.
  • US data out on Friday includes the headline and core consumer price indices, while US Federal Open Market Committee member Lael Brainard is due to speak.
  • Continuing US-China trade talks are also likely to be a major focal point for market participants today.
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