Prices of nickel ore and nickel pig iron in China are set to rise further in coming weeks, Macquarie Commodities Research forecast Tuesday in a report. Both markets have seen prices increase since the week-long Lunar New Year holiday in China ended last Thursday, based on data from Chinese metals research firm Shanghai Metals Market, Macquarie said in the report.
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SMM put the prevailing price of 1.8-1.9% Ni ore at Yuan 415/mt ($68/mt), up Yuan 10/mt from before the holiday, Macquarie said.
"We expect further gains over the coming weeks as stainless steel plants look to lock in raw material supply," Macquarie said in the report.
Smaller nickel pig iron or NPI plants currently hold 1-2 months of nickel ore stock, while medium-sized plants have three months of cover, it said.
"However, we feel the uplift in ore prices can come sooner rather than later as levels do not need to be critically low before purchasers are willing to pay up, particularly if NPI prices themselves start to rise," Macquarie said.
Market participants had expected NPI spot prices in China to rise after the week-long Lunar New Year holiday as major stainless steel makers in the country had lifted their high-grade NPI prices for February deliveries in late January.
Both Shanxi Taigang Stainless Steel and Baosteel in late January raised their February prices by Yuan 10/nickel unit ($1.60/unit) from a month earlier to Yuan 980/unit ($161/unit), while Jiuquan Iron & Steel raised its price Yuan 25/unit to Yuan 1,010/unit.
The increases were attributed to higher global nickel metal prices and unscheduled production stoppages at NPI smelters in Inner Mongolia, Shandong and Jiangsu after environmental checks by local authorities.