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Nickel's 8% plunge leads week of base metals losses


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Nickel's 8% plunge leads week of base metals losses

The Trump administration secured a major milestone last week, when the U.S. Senate narrowly backed a tax overhaul that could cut corporate tax to 20% from 35%.

Stock markets rallied in the run-up to the meeting, which was approved by 51 to 49 votes after last minute changes were made to win over enough members.

Slashing taxes for corporations has been a key target of President Donald Trump and Republican leaders, who predict it will stimulate investments and economic growth while adding more than US$1 trillion to the deficit over 10 years.

It would be the largest change to U.S. tax laws in more than three decades.

Towards the end of the week, strong manufacturing data from much of Asia and Europe showed that factories experienced one of the busiest months in years during the month of November, boosted by a global uptick in trade and economic activity.

Price ring

Despite an upswing on the back of the manufacturing data, base metals across the board took a hit on a weekly basis, with nickel plummeting as much as 7.8% to US$11,050/tonne. Aluminum and copper retracted by 3.4% and 3.5%, respectively, to US$2,033/t and US$6,735/t, while zinc slipped 2.6% to US$3,177/t and lead decreased marginally by 0.3% to US$2,474/t.

Iron ore could accumulate some gains for the same time, ending the week 3.2% higher at a Dec. 1 closing price of US$70.1/t.

Among the precious metals, the weekly performance was mixed but gold and silver both booked a loss. Gold booked a marginal loss of 0.3% as it hit US$1,284/ounce, while silver was 3.5% in the red by the end of the week at US$16.5/oz.

Talking points

Commodity prices and base metals in particular are set to see further upside in the year ahead, according to a new note by RBC Capital Markets.

The bank expects positive global economic developments and a recovery in both developed and emerging markets to support commodities prices, it noted Dec. 3, even though a further slowdown in China continues to pose a risk, particularly at the beginning of 2018. However, the team flagged that continued infrastructure spending, for example through China's Belt and Road initiative, could result in above-consensus demand for commodities.

In line with this view, RBC lifted its near-term outlook for base and bulk metals, with price levels all above consensus. Zinc, copper, coking coal and iron ore were tagged as preferred commodities, with copper guided at US$3.00/lb in 2018 compared to US$2.75/lb previously.

"We forecast rising prices through 2021 due to growing deficits and the requirement for 5 million tonnes of new copper supply by 2028," the analysts added. RBC estimates copper to reach US$3.75/lb by 2021.

2018 estimates for zinc were adjusted to US$1.50/lb, from US$1.35/lb, as supply side constraints are thought to result in prices remaining "elevated" for three to four years, the team wrote.

RBC also boosted its price deck for nickel, which it now sees at an average of US$5.00/lb in 2018, compared to US$4.50/lb previously.

"We have increased near-term nickel prices and expect a stable trading range through 2019 before the market begins to tighten as inventories are drawn down," the team wrote.

Meanwhile, bulk commodities could see a choppy start to the year as China's steel production curbs start to feed through. RBC continues to see iron ore averaging US$65.00/t in 2018.


Norwegian fertilizer producer Yara International ASA issued senior unsecured bonds of 3.25 billion Norwegian kroner and 1.25 billion Swedish kronor. The company issued a five-year 800 million kronor fixed-rate note, a five-year 450 million kronor floating-rate note, a five-year 1.25 billion kroner floating-rate note, a seven-year 1.00 billion kroner fixed-rate note and a 10-year 1.00 billion kroner fixed-rate note.

Yamana Gold Inc. priced an offering of US$300 million of 4.625% senior unsecured notes due Dec. 15, 2027, unconditionally guaranteed by certain Yamana units that also serve as guarantors under the miner's credit facility. The company will use the proceeds to repay outstanding debt and the outstanding amount on its credit facility.

Mountain Province Diamonds Inc. is set to launch a private offering of senior secured second-lien notes due 2022 in a bid to raise US$325 million to repay and terminate a US$370 million project loan facility and debts owed to De Beers SA related to the development of the Gahcho Kue diamond mine in Canada's Northwest Territories.

Funding for the ramp-up of the Nacala Logistic Corridor, which aims to link Vale SA's Moatize coal mine in Mozambique to the Nacala-à-Velha terminal, reached completion after companies linked to the logistics project secured binding financing contracts worth US$2.73 billion. The financing includes US$1.03 billion from Japan Bank for International Cooperation, a US$1 billion loan insured by Nippon Export and Investment Insurance from a group of banks, a US$400 million loan insured by Export Credit Insurance of South Africa Ltd. from South African banks, and US$300 million from the African Development Bank. Vale intends to build a deepwater seaport at the Nacala-à-Velha terminal.