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Nickel premiums stay low as buyers sit out

Keywords: Tags  nickel premiums, melting-grade nickel, Xstrata Nickel, Sudbury, nickel, Xstrata, Daniel Fitzgerald

NEW YORK — Spot melting-grade nickel premiums have remained at lows unseen in nearly a decade, with most consumers continuing to have their production needs met by contract business, market sources say.

Melting-grade premiums were unchanged in a range of 18 to 25 cents per pound Jan.30, while plating-grade was steady in a range of 50 to 60 cents per pound.

“Numbers are still very low. Business is lousy everywhere,” one supplier said.

“It’s one of the quietest Januarys I have seen in a very long time,” a trader added.

Melting-grade premiums fell to this nine-and-a-half-year low earlier in January, with traders saying that the spot market had become particularly slow (, Jan. 16).

“The melt schedules are being totally satisfied with the contract business, so there’s no need for consumers to go into the spot market,” a second trader said.

“The inquiries coming out are mainly about replenishing and topping up rather than buying inventory,” a third trader said.

Traders also said that the market was closely monitoring labor negotiations at Xstrata Nickel’s facility in Sudbury, Ontario.

“If they went on strike, you would see some tightening in the premiums. Last time Vale SA had a strike, premiums shot up to over $1 per pound,” the first trader claimed.

An Xstrata spokesman told AMM that negotiations were ongoing as of Jan. 31. Xstrata Nickel is a unit of Zug, Switzerland-based Xstrata Plc.

The London Metal Exchange’s three-month nickel price closed the official session at $18,465 per tonne ($8.38 per pound) Jan. 31.

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