Editorial

Global nickel outlook: a pendulum of uncertainty

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Since 1 January 2017, the nickel price has swung wildly on sentiment alone. Facing a relaxed export ban in Indonesia and potential mine closures in The Philippines, a great deal of uncertainty surrounds the market, which feeds China’s nickel pig iron (NPI) production and thus, the market for stainless steel.

Looking at government announcements alone this year, it’s clear the nickel price is extremely volatile, falling sharply with Indonesia’s potentially increasing exports, then rising markedly just a month later, when the DENR recommended 23 mine closures in The Philippines. While it’s unclear whether the closures will actually occur and with operations suspended, the market remains confused and technically, nothing has changed.

Despite these two highly significant events, we’re in a position now where not a lot has changed compared to the start of the year. The situation is still very confusing, and the best we can say at the moment is that more exports will leave Indonesia.

Sean Mulshaw, Principal Analyst, Global Nickel Markets

Sean Mulshaw

Principal Analyst, Global Nickel Markets

Sean is an expert in global nickel, stainless steel and molybdenum markets.

View Sean Mulshaw's full profile

After displaying so much price uncertainty over just a few months, the nickel market remains in flux. A net effect of Indonesian-Filipino policies in which recommended mines close (-120 kt Ni) and imports are at a maximum (+150 kt Ni) could mean a net positive supply outcome of just 30 kt Ni in Chinese NPI — essentially keeping prices where they were at the start of the year.