Global Nickel market deficit widens

  • Indonesian mine supply up 30 pct Jan-May
  • Philippines supply recovers in May, still down on year
  • China refined production drops 15 pct in Jan-May (Adds detail on China refined production)

By Melanie Burton

MELBOURNE, July 15 The global nickel market deficit widened to 11,200 tonnes in May, as low prices weighed on refined output from top producer China while demand slowly improved, data from the International Nickel Study Group showed on Friday.

But strong yearly production from mines in Indonesia and a revival in output from the Philippines in May suggests global refined nickel production posted a strong recovery in June.

World production of primary nickel fell to 164,700 tonnes in May, behind a recovery in global consumption, which edged up to 175,900 tonnes. The deficit in April was revised down to 6,500 tonnes.

From January to May, the world deficit widened to 21,200 tonnes, as consumption grew by 4.1 percent to 821,200 tonnes but refined output slipped by 2.3 percent to 800,000 tonnes on the year earlier.

Mine supply has diminished by 5.3 percent for the first five months of the year, mostly due to lower output from the Philippines, which recovered strongly in May, when the country’s output jumped to 53,100 tonnes from 16,800 tonnes in April.

An environmental crackdown on Philippine mines from June which helped drive nickel prices to eight-month highs this month is likely to have only a muted impact on exports to China in the short term because the biggest mines have met guidelines.

Also underpinning the gain in mine supply, production from Indonesia grew by 30.4 percent for the first five months of the year.

On the refined side, production from China fell 14.7 percent in the first five months, as low prices and tougher pollution controls impacted production.

Steel-making producers in Linyi city, in China’s coastal Shandong province, have been shuttered after intense smog choked China’s major cities.

Global nickel prices have surged by more than a fifth since May on prospects that a clampdown on mine supply from Philippines will tighten nickel supplies, trading at $10,355 a tonne on Friday, up from $8,390 at the end of May. (Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Richard Pullin and Eric Meijer)


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