Nickel Prices Surge

Markets Nickel-PricesMonth-to-month, there was little change in the E&MJ Price Index except for one metal: nickel. During April, nickel prices jumped $2,300 per metric ton (mt) to $18,070/mt from $15,770/mt, an increase of 14.6%. That follows a 10.4% month-to-month increase in March from $14,285/mt. In two months, nickel has climbed to $8.21/lb from $6.49/lb. So where does it go from here?

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Copper Prices Slide During March

During March, copper prices dropped to $6,667 per metric ton (mt, $3.01/lb) from $7,149/mt ($3.18/lb). That amounted to a 6.7% decline for the month, and several times during March the price dropped below the $3/lb threshold to as low as $2.92/lb. At the beginning of the year, copper was trading at $3.32/lb. Year-to-date, copper prices are down about 10%. In the October 2013 Markets column, E&MJ reported the International Copper Study Group’s forecast for an oversupplied copper market in 2014. Despite copper production interruptions at some major mines, softening demand appears to support that forecast.

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Cobalt Market May See More Changes in 2014

Given its position as the world’s largest producer, developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have the potential to significantly impact the market in 2014, according to Roskill’s Cobalt: Market Outlook to 2018. The DRC government would like to increase domestic refining of copper and cobalt products and decrease exports of unrefined materials. The proposed export ban on concentrates did not come to fruition in 2013, but government rhetoric suggests that such measures could still go ahead in 2015.

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Nickel Prices Retreat After Advancing on Indonesian Policy

Similar to the equities markets, prices for base metals started the New Year on a slightly downward trend. According to the E&MJ Prices Index, aluminum lost about $100 per metric ton (mt) or about 6% during January. Copper declined 5% or $340/mt. Lead, nickel, tin and zinc were down $35/mt (2%), $75/mt (1%), $290/mt (1%) and $120/mt (6%), respectively.

Put another way, during January, aluminum dropped from $0.79/lb to $0.75/lb; copper declined from $3.38/lb to $3.23/lb; lead slipped from $1.01/lb to $0.95/lb; nickel dipped from $6.32/lb to $6.29/lb; tin settled from $10.22/lb to $10.09/lb; and zinc slid from $0.95/lb to $0.89/lb.

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