LIVE FUTURES REPORT 23/03: LME nickel price at $16,600/t, aluminium down 2%

The three-month nickel price on the London Metal Exchange was up by 1% during morning trading on Tuesday March 23, while aluminium fell to $2,227.50 per tonne, with a combination of macroeconomic factors and fundamentals issues resulting in mixed price movements.

Aluminium’s price was down by by 1.95% on Tuesday at 9am, nevertheless still above the $2,200 per tonne mark. The light metal hit a year-to-date high on Monday of $2,285.50 per tonne, the most since June 2018.

“The price has dropped by around 2% this morning after speculation emerged that China could release up to 500,000 tons of aluminium from its state reserves,” Commerzbank’s precious and industrial metals analyst Daniel Briesemann said.

The flow of cancellations in aluminium eased on Tuesday, with 6,025 tonnes booked for removal and an outflow of 7,700 tonnes from LME warehouses. Some 451,500 tonnes of the light metal were cancelled in the past week, following an over 600,000-tonne delivery on March 11-12.

Nervous sentiment has manifested in wider markets, given new European Covid-19 lockdowns being imposed over the next few weeks and raised geopolitical tensions with Western governments’ sanctions on China.

“The US along with the EU, Canada and the UK, imposed sanctions against four Chinese government officials and a domestic security organization on Monday for ‘serious human rights abuses’ against Uighur Muslims. China promptly responded, levying its own sanctions on 10 EU individuals and four entities,” ED&F Man’s head of commodity research Edward Meir said.

Copper’s price was also down on Tuesday, to $9,070 per tonne at 9am, from $9,108.50 per tonne on Monday at the close.

Nearly 20,000 tonnes of the red metal have been delivered into LME warehouses in Rotterdam in the past two days, while on the Shanghai Futures Exchange they increased for a seventh straight week, by 16,000 tonnes (9%) in the week to March 19

Elsewhere, however, nickel’s three-month price continued its rise after a period of steady prices around and below $16,200 per tonne since the first week of March; it was up 1% on Tuesday morning to $16,650 per tonne.

Supply issues have lingered for nickel, with uncertainty around the return of full capacity at Glencore’s Murrin Murrin nickel and cobalt plant in Australia, while there has also been dip-buying and short-covering seen after the period of lower prices.

Lead’s three-month price also continued its rebound, coming to $1,983 per tonne on Tuesday at 9am from its Monday closing price of $1,972 per tonne. On March 17, the metal was trading around $1,920 per tonne, its lowest levels since November 2020.

The first estimates from the International Lead and Zinc Study Group (ILZSG) showed the refined lead market in a modest 21,900-tonne deficit in January 2021, from a sizeable 196,300-tonne surplus in 2020.

Other highlights

  • Tin’s three-month price was above the $26,000-per-tonne mark for the first time this month on Tuesday.
  • Economic readings out later on Tuesday include the Chinese leading indicators index and US data on the current account, new home sales and the Richmond manufacturing index. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will testify before the House Financial Services Committee, as well.
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