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Global nickel price still flat but there is an upside - Report

Time:[4/5/2012]   Hits:1872
Once again it appears that nickel prices are under pressure. With the current price hovering around USD 18,700 per tonne, prices have remained relatively flat through the first quarter of 2012. During 2011, nickel prices averaged USD 22,680 per tonne compared to USD 21,980 per tonne for the previous twelve months. But fourth quarter prices slipped to USD 18,333 and have remained close to that level ever since. Now, with recent concerns in the market over China's economic growth, or lack thereof, nickel may continue to face an uphill battle.

China has been the leading consumer of nickel, but with the recent focus on the country's projected slowdown, demand may be stalled for quite some time. Earlier this year, China cut its 2012 growth target for gross domestic product to 7.5%, an eight year low. Additionally, the country raised its gasoline and diesel prices for the second time this year, prompting concerns that higher prices could weigh on Chinese consumers. The Chinese Automotive Association is already anticipating unmet targets for the year.

Back in June 2011, the Bank of America Merrill Lynch predicted nickel surpluses could climb as high as 60,000 tonnes in 2012. At the time of the announcement, nickel was trading at USD 22,283 per tonne and the bank expected a 10% drop in the price.

That news hasn't stopped mining companies and refineries from producing even more nickel. According to Macquarie Group Limited, new mines could increase the supply by 11% in 2012. That amount would be the most in 17 years if raw material producers continue to be active in exploration and mining, and supply expands faster than demand.

According to Morgan Stanley, additional supply could also come from Vale's Onca Puma, Anglo American's Barro Alto mines in Brazil, Glencore's Murrin Murrin or First Quantum Minerals' Raventhorpe in Australia. Projects by Vale in New Caledonia and Sherritt International in Madagascar could take production from new operations to 117,000 tonnes in 2012, the bank estimates. Other new mining projects could add more than 100,000 tonnes to global nickel production in 2012, causing another surplus year.

Barclays Capital estimates that nickel production could exceed demand by 45,000 tonnes, a 73% jump from 2011. That amount is equal to 46% of stockpiles tracked by the London Metal Exchange.