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Nickel market starts summer slowdown

Keywords: Tags  nickel premiums, melting-grade nickel, plating-grade nickel, nickel demand, nickel, nickel prices, London Metal Exchange, LME Daniel Fitzgerald

NEW YORK — With nickel premiums continuing to sit at record lows, market participants say that business activity is unlikely to pick up until the end of summer.

Melting-grade nickel premiums are unchanged in a range of 15 to 25 cents per pound, while plating-grade nickel premiums also are steady at between 50 and 60 cents per pound.

The London Metal Exchange’s three-month nickel contract closed the May 23 official session at $14,855 per tonne ($6.74 per pound), down 3.7 percent from $15,420 per tonne ($6.99 per pound) two weeks earlier.

One producer source said that low nickel prices had encouraged "some forward buying" over the past few weeks but spot business had slowed down and premiums were unchanged as a result.

"Business is slow all the way around," he said. "The high-temps are slow, plating is slow, the stainless mills are very slow. Frankly, there really haven’t been a lot of inquiries."

A trader said that his company had been unsuccessful in attaining higher premiums during a recent brief flurry of sales. "We’ve been trying to get some of the premiums up, but not many people are wanting to go with them," he said. "People are just going with the status quo." The trader added that the market is entering "the infamous summer slowdown period," a sentiment echoed by other market participants.

"I don’t see things picking up until the third quarter or maybe even the fourth quarter. We may see a little pickup in September," a second trader said.

"It’s been a pretty mediocre year all around," the producer source said. "These things happen—you can’t be high all the time—but I don’t see any indicators down the road that things will turn around anytime soon."

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