Nickel ore buyers and sellers are still waiting for clarity on whether Indonesia will ban exports in three days time, or only impose an export tax.
The government announced in early February that the ban would be introduced on May 6, but market participants have been left in limbo this week after an apparent change of direction
Confusion spread after local media reported that the country’s minister for Indonesian energy and mineral resources, Jero Wacik, had announced on Tuesday May 1 that 14 mineral commodities, including nickel ore, would become subject to an export tax of between 20% and 50% if sold in the form of ore.
But no official announcement has been made, fuelling speculation and confusion across the trade. The ministry of
“We have decided to take all the ships back before May 6, because we are not sure of what will happen [ban or tax], and we want to wait for the policy to be clearer, which may take between one and two months,” a nickel ore importer in China told Metal Bulletin.
Some sources were confident the government would not introduce an outright ban.
“We sent one ship there recently. Originally we thought we have to leave before May 6, but our supplier told us that it is not necessary,” a second nickel ore trader said.
Chinese market quiet
China's nickel market has been quiet recently as many market participants hold out for more concrete news about Indonesia's policy intentions.
Stainless mills are also not keen to buy nickel pig iron, sources said.
“Even if Indonesia does ban exports from May 6, there will be no big impact on spot nickel ore prices, as demand from the stainless industry is sluggish and Chinese traders imported a huge amount of nickel ore during March and April,” an analyst in Shanghai said.
Spot nickel ore prices with nickel grade 1.8% remain at 500-540 yuan ($79-86) per tonne at Chinese ports, unchanged from mid-April, but below the 520-550 yuan per tonne of early March.
Major Chinese stainless steelmakers Taigang and Baosteel have not announced nickel pig iron bidding prices for May yet, which means they have not made nickel pig iron purchases.
The companies would normally announce the bidding price around the middle of March.
“It means that they are waiting too, and they still have stocks and are not in urgent need of nickel pig iron,” a source from a stainless mill said.
Metal Bulletin outlined the possible Indonesian scenarios