London — Global nickel consumption exceeded supply by around 100,000 mt in 2016, Glencore said Thursday in its preliminary annual results statement.
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"Nickel supply continued to fall in 2016 with further shutdowns (BCL, Tati, Votorantim, Mirabella), and lower nickel unit exports (in ore) from the Philippines all driving a fall in projected nickel output to approximately 1.95 million mt of nickel, down 2% versus 2015," the Switzerland-based commodities group said.
"Overall we estimate primary nickel demand in 2016 of 2.05 million mt," representing an increase of around 8% versus 2015, the company added.
"Consequently the market entered its first material deficit since 2010 enabling global inventories to fall by around 100,000 tonnes," Glencore said.
"Whilst inventories remain elevated, the outlook is for continued deficits and further draws in primary nickel inventories as demand remains strong," the company said, adding that supply increases relate to Indonesia exporting more nickel units in nickel pig iron, "with production elsewhere continuing to flat-line or even fall."
London Metal Exchange nickel stocks currently stand at 381,720 mt, down from 435,396 mt 12 months ago.
"Despite a weak January and February 2016, global stainless steel production expanded materially in 2016, led by double-digit demand growth in China. Furthermore, we saw a continued shift to austenitic grades in Europe, India and the US which supported nickel demand growth," the company said.
Glencore estimated global stainless steel production in 2016 at over 45 million mt, up over 7% from the prior year, including over 24 million mt from China, with global 300S austenitic production totaling over 25 million mt -- a 10% increase from 2015.
"Developments in non-stainless remain mixed, with special steel producers reporting challenging conditions primarily due to continued oil and gas weakness, whilst demand from the critical alloys industry and battery sector remains robust," the company added.
Glencore's marketing operations sold 221,000 mt of nickel last year, down 4% from 231,000 mt in 2015.
--Andy Blamey, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Edited by Jeremy Lovell, email@example.com