Thiss page is archived news covering the period from June 1, 2006 to June 30, 2006.
If you are looking for current daily market news, please visit this page.

Stainless Steel & Metals News.

Daily Nickel Market Prices

June 2006

(Nickel prices are followed here daily as they are responsible for up to 60% of the cost of stainless steel)
(Molybdenum prices are for molybdenum oxide, an ingredient and major price factor in 316 stainless)

(all ton listings are metric tons = 2204.6 pounds - what we use to determine closing - see bottom of page)


All LME metals ended up today, with nickel the biggest gainer, ending the day, week and month at $9.69/lb. The question begs to be asked. Are we still witnessing a market solely driven by speculation, or does the definition of market fundamentals as we have known it, need re-defined?
*    MEPS reports the price of 304 stainless steel cold rolled coil has increased 17% in Japan, 29% in the US, and 43% in Germany - in just the first six months of this year alone.
*    Fed Chairman announced 1/4% increase in interest rates, but his comments led investors to feel they may not see more in the near future. US stock market saw biggest one day gain in 3 years yesterday.
*    Couple of more articles about the proposed mergers worth noting  here and here and here
*    Where is the price of nickel headed? Maybe this chart will give you an idea of demand growth in the world for  stainless steel, its single biggest user - pdf here
*    LME nickel inventory - plus 198 tons = 10,548 tons


Nickel closed up, at $9.48/lb.
*     More articles  here, here, here, here, here, and here
*    Mitsui Bussan Commodities raises its 2006/07 forecast for nickel - 2006 - $8.20/lb and 2007 $7.62/lb.
*    Teck says its current offer for Inco stands, as is, with no plans to raise it.
*    All eyes on the Fed today, which is expected to announce a 1/4% hike in the interest rate. What else will be said, giving any clues to future action, will be what most likely drives the market one way or the other.
*    Some interesting articles on the Phelps/Inco deal  here,  here,  here,  here, and finally here . A personal note to the columnists - please keep in mind, the Yanks got "invited" to this shin-dig.
*    After the announcement on Monday, the media was somewhat quiet on Tuesday, but by Wednesday afternoon, was ablaze with reaction and counter-reaction, predictions and pontifications about Phelps Dodge being drawn into joining forces with Inco and Falconbridge. The tone got nasty when Teck Cominco Chairman Norman Keevil told Bloomberg that Inco's CEO Scott Hand had "sold Canada out for his own purposes". Some Canadian columnists appeared to be more tactful, but implied much the same. Analysts were predicting everything from the new three way deal was a done deal to others saying there was less than a 50-50 chance that Phelps stock holders would buy into the deal. Teck was predicted to be analyzing a counter proposal to speculation they themselves could become a target for a hostile takeover. By whom? Well, Xstrata is predicted to be preparing a new counter offer for Falconbridge, to speculation they are going after Teck should they lose. The financial success of any union will hinge on metal prices, primarily nickel and copper, maintaining their strength. Phelps refused to speculate, thus raising skepticism amongst their stock holders about the $20 plus billion dollars worth of debt that will be incurred in this $40 billion US dollar deal. Very few will admit current prices are within market fundamentals, having been taken to record levels by market speculation and fund investment. On the other hand, many believe we will see $3/lb nickel about the same time we see $1.50/gallon gasoline in the US again. I wonder if the Oil Sands will be next?
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 792 tons = 10,350 tons


Another quiet day on the LME trading floor as the market tries to find a clear direction. LME nickle ended the day at $9.26/lb.
*    Yieh reports stainless prices are up in Europe, stock is hard to find in some case, and some stainless mills are booked into October. The fire at ThyssenKrupp Norista’s Krefeld plant last week, did not help matters for European customers.
*    Analysts predict Xstrata will raise its bid for Falconbridge, while they are unsure about Teck Cominco's reaction to Phelps beating their bid for Inco.
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 696 tons = 11,142 tons


LME nickel, along with the other metals, nudged down a bit, closing at $8.98/lb. Not much movement is expected either way until the Fed meets later this week to raise interest rates.
*    Blackmont lowers Falconbridge to hold.
*    Barclay lowers it 2006 forecast for nickel from $9.07/lb to $8.75/lb.  
*    If you look at the back of your $20 bill, the 140 year old American Elm on the far right, is no longer standing, having been blown down in a storm Sunday night.
*    Phelps shareholders reacted negatively yesterday to the takeover of Inco and Falconbridge news, driving company share prices down, while Inco and Falconbridge stockholders gained. Fitch announces plans to review Phelps rating, while S & P upgrades to buy. Moody to review credit rating of all 3 companies, reviewing the $22 billion dollar debt it will take to fund this merger.  
*    If anyone out there didn't know our Canadian neighbors could potentially be the Saudi Arabia of the future, here is the CBS 60 Minutes story on Mining the Oil Sands of Alberta. here
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 750 tons = 11,838 tons


LME nickel ended the day at $9.06/lb. Show of hands - how many are shocked the Canadians would want the Yanks in two of their biggest companies?
*    Australian Bureau of Agricultural & Resource Economics forecasts nickel prices to be $7.25/lb for 2006 and $6.21/lb in 2007.
*    Stakes get bigger in Canada - Phelps Dodge enters the bidding war, offering $40 billion dollars for both Inco and Falconbridge in a friendly takeover. The offer is for C$80.13 per share in cash and stock. The press release states "the three-way combination also announced today among Phelps Dodge Corporation, Inco and Falconbridge, pursuant to which the companies would ultimately combine to create Phelps Dodge Inco Corporation, a metals and mining powerhouse which would be the world's leading nickel producer, the world's largest publicly-traded copper producer and a leading producer of molybdenum and cobalt."
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 600 tons = 12,588 tons


*    US population to reach 300 million in October, The EU to reach 457 million this fall - China's population hit an estimated 1.3 billion in 2005. It is interesting to remember that when Europe was experiencing its 'industrial revolution', stainless steel, the single largest user of nickel, had yet to be discovered. In the US, the metal was in its infancy. And China?  
*    Top 5 world nickel producers - Norilsk of Russia, Inco of Canada, BHP Billiton of Australia, Falconbridge of Canada, and OMG Products of Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Xstrata is the world's largest producer of ferrochrome. Chile's Codelco is the world's largest producer of copper and the largest producer of molybdenum. Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) of Brazil is the world's top producer of iron ore.
*    Newsmaker this week - Wednesday - Voisey Bay mine and concentrator official opening 
*    US antitrust regulators give their approval to Inco in its bid to takeover Falconbridge.
*    For your Sunday reading.....
*    Ten Mines that would make King Solomon Happy by Stan Sudol Nov 2004 here
*    List of nickel mines of the world  (active and under construction) and their owners here
*    Asia Times - The United States, China and India will together account for more than 50% of global economic growth between 2005 and 2020, with Asia's overall share of the world economy rising to 43% from its current 35%, according to the "Foresight 2020" study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by Nasdaq-listed Cisco Systems. (download the free report from the EIU site)
*    Mining Journal  6/9/23006  "Nickel mining is flourishing" article here 


Nickel took a breather today, ending up for the week, but down from yesterday - at $8.71/lb.
*    Port of Dudinka re-opens... Norilsk Nickel to resume shipping nickel.
*    European stainless prices already heading up after yesterdays fire at Krefeld.
*    Inco Vice President Peter Goudie tells analysts and shareholders in a Thursday conference call, that Inco predicts a worldwide deficit of up to 30,000 tonnes of nickel worldwide for the year. Adam Rowley of Macquarie Bank told Reuters yesterday they foresee a deficit around 16,000 tonnes this year.
*    World Bureau of Metal Statistics reports worldwide nickel deficit of 6,000 metric tons in first quarter of 2006
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 684 tons = 13,188 tons


LME nickel reversed course today, and gave up some of yesterdays gains, closing at $8.85/lb.
*     Reports of a fire at Thyssen Krupp's cold rolled mill at Krefeld. No injuries but initial damage appears to be considerable. This could have a direct effect on cold rolled stainless steel prices in Europe - and possibly beyond. 
*    And to motivate you, or depress you, it was announced yesterday the number of millionaires in the world now stands at 8.7 million. With an estimated worldwide population this morning of 6,523,761,707, your odds stand at 1 in 761. Good luck! 
*    Yieh is reporting 3 major Chinese stainless steel producers have announced production cuts of 20% during July in an effort to stabilize raw material costs.
*    Inco announces it forecasts the company's second quarter net earnings to be highest in its 104 year history.
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 1236 tons = 13,872 tons


LME nickel rose again today, after another big hit was seen on inventories, which will be reflected in tomorrow morning's report. Price ended the day at $9.07/lb.
*    Buyers and sellers meet next week to decide third quarter ferrochrome prices. Expect an increase as South African producers, the world's largest, are not experiencing the bonanza many minerals are, because of the loss in the value of the rand, down 11% against the dollar so far this year. Producers will probably ask for 8 cents a pound.
*    Rumors afloat that Phelps Dodge and Inco are in discussions about the Falconbridge takeover. Possible announcement tomorrow.  
*    China agrees to pay BHP and Rio Tinto 19% more for iron ore
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 402 tons = 15,108 tons


Nickel was the big winner on the London Metal Exchange today, closing at $8.71/lb.
*    Many traders are convinced the Fed will raise interest rates next week, and the odds of another quarter-point move in August rose to 70 percent, up from zero chance just two weeks ago. So far this month, Bloomberg reports the European Central Bank, South Korea, Turkey, South Africa and Switzerland have all raised their rates. China also announced moves last week to make borrowing more difficult.
*    AK Steel announces price increase of 6% on all hot and cold rolled stainless sheet and strip, effective July 2
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 654 tons = 15,510 tons

Observation - Only time will reveal what world markets will do, but history might give us a clue to where nickel prices are heading. The beginning of this most recent bull market began, arguably, on September 23, 2002 when the price of nickel stood at $2.87/lb. The first upturn would last nearly 15 months, when nickel would close at $8.01/lb on January 7, 2004. This was followed by a retreat that would end in four months, on May 18th, 2004, when nickel closed at $4.79/lb. Another short rally, lasting 2 months, saw nickel close at $7.23/lb on July 7. Another two months saw nickel fall back to $5.46/lb on September 9th. A short burst saw nickel close at $7.53/lb on October 8, 2004, only to see if fall more dramatically, closing at $5.79/lb just 3 weeks later on the 26th of October. Things calmed down and the next climb would last nearly eight months, once again peaking on June 3, 2005, at $7.58/lb. Five months later, it would hit bottom at $5.24/lb on November 3, 2005. The next turnaround is still in question, but it could be said the latest peak we have witnessed was on May 26th, when nickel closed at $10.43/lb.
So, any calendar patterns? It is interesting to note that of the low points over the last 4 years, 80% of them have come in fall (September thru November) Peaks are not as regular, with 60% coming in early summer (May thru July). So, if the bull market is not over, it might be interesting to speculate that we could see a downturn that might last thru the remainder of summer into fall. Then again, as many have already discovered, this market holds very little rhyme or reason, and any patterns seen over the last few years mean absolutely nothing.


Nickel fell with the other LME traded metals as the dollar increased - closed at $8.53/lb.
*     Inco announces promising exploration finds at three of its current Canadian operations.
*    Yieh reports price of 304 stainless steel went down slightly last week, reflecting the drop in nickel prices.
*    LME nickel inventory - plus 324 tons = 16,164 tons


If you missed it last month, the 2006 edition of IISI’s World Steel in Figures is available online here
More speculation about who Inco may be talking to here
For your Sunday reading, an interesting observation from Mining Journal about mining companies and hostile takeovers here


LME markets were a mix today, some up, some down, some unchanged. Nickel closed the week at $8.70/lb
*    China announces it will raise bank reserve requirements by 1/2 % point effective 7-5.
*    MEPS forecasts "a further 19 percent increase in our benchmark 304 cold rolled coil price over the next four months". They also foresee "world stainless steel prices drifting lower in the last few months of 2006 and into the first half of 2007 at least."
*    Reuters picked up the story we reported on Monday about the Goro projects work permit being cancelled by a New Caledonia court. Inco immediately issued a statement the courts action would have no impact on construction and that the permit in question was to expire in October anyway. Inco said it was addressing all of the concerns mentioned by the court in its new permit application.  
*    Allegheny Ludlum announces 6% price increase on hot and cold roll stainless effective July 3rd, on the same day S & P Equity Research upgrades company's stock from sell to hold on strong demand.
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 138 tons = 15,840 tons


The bulls were back on the LME floor today, with all finishing up, including nickel, which closed at $8.57/lb.
*    Falconbridge rejects idea of 3 way merger with Inco and Xstrata, Xstrata says US regulators see no anti-trust conflicts, and the Canadian Competition Bureau has given Xstrata the green light to proceed with its hostile takeover of Falconbridge. Teck also said it has gotten clearance from US and Canadian regulators in its takeover offer of Inco. And an analyst who has spent the last few days with Inco and Falconbridge exec's, who were trying to sell stock holders and investors on their merger idea, says he thinks Inco will sweeten its offer. Another hinted to the Canadian press that they better consider it, because investors were more interested on today's return, which favored Xstrata's offer, rather than what Inco-Falconbridge could be 5 years down the line.
*    Japan's largest stainless steel producer, Nippon Steel & Sumikin Stainless Corp, raises prices on 300 series stainless for 6th straight month.
*    Very interesting article about the future of ferrochrome, the most critical ingredient in stainless steel (here)
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 774 tons = 15,978 tons


LME markets subdued today, as investors and traders waited for someone else to blink first. Except for a flat zinc, all metals were up a little, with nickel closing at $8.12/lb. Bears quietly wonder if the sky is falling, and the bulls announce even race cars need a pit stop now and then.
*    UPS AG analyst forecasts world economic growth to slow from 4.5% in 2005 to 4.3% in 2006, and 3.5% in 2007.
*    May inflation data released today in US makes another increase in the US interest rates by the Fed more probable.
*    Chinese industrial output rose 17% in May over the same time last year. Market bulls would say this confirms growth in China is expanding. The bears would say this adds evidence that the Chinese Central Bank will raise interest rates to slow down the economy.
*    The LME commodities market seems to be shadowing the actions of investment markets worldwide, which have suddenly become nervous about inflationary concerns and a worldwide economic slowdown. Markets are edgy with analysts looking for clues anywhere they can. Billionaire George Soros told CNBC last night that commodities were in for a 'period of correction'.
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 228 tons = 16,752 tons


Metals took another thumping today, all in the negative range. With the US dollar up, LME nickel ended the day at $7.94/lb. This is a 15% drop in price since the first of the month, but still 16% higher than the 2005 average.
*    Fortis Metals Monthly analyst revises his nickel price forecast to $9/lb for the third quarter of 2006. He also stated in his report ""This surge of interest in copper, nickel and zinc is neither irrational nor misguided, but a rather slow response by speculative investors to the perception that today's essential fundamentals for copper, zinc and to some extent nickel, and perhaps out as far as 2010, are compelling."
*    Norilsk Nickel and BHP form a joint venture to explore for minerals in northwestern Russia.
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 246 tons = 16,980 tons


LME metals were all down today, except for lead. Nickel took the biggest hit, dropping almost 4% to end at $8.67/lb.
*    Falconbridge FAL.LV becomes FAL on the Toronto Stock Exchange
*    Radio New Zealand is reporting an administrative tribunal in Noumea has upheld a complaint by the Kanak Rheebu Nuu group that an environmental study done for Inco's Goro project was inadequate. This came after that town saw thousands attend a rally earlier in the week, calling for a stop to the construction of the mine.
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 222 tons = 17,226 tons


*    For those who enjoy a little history on Sunday, here is a very interesting article "Nickel – the extraordinary metal that transformed the 20th century" by Stan Sudol (don't miss the articles he has linked at the bottom of the article)
*    The Bureau of International Recycling Non-Ferrous Metals Division meeting in Beijing last Thursday heard two different perspectives and forecasts on the condition of metals. Jim Southwood, founder and President of Commodity Metals Management Company of the USA, noting that 20% of the value of aluminum was being held by hedge funds, said while more and more people have rushed in to take advantage of climbing prices, "this will all end in tears". Marc Natan of GDE Non-Ferreux-ECORE in France, the President of BIR’s Non-Ferrous Metals Division, noted that copper prices have soared 190% since the beginning of 2005, but was doubtful the hikes were due to speculation, noting the upturn is being feed by supply and demand issues. Markus Moll, Managing Director of Austria-based Steel & Metals Market Research, reported that scrap in the production of 300 series stainless has seen its share drop to below 65% last year, with further declines forecast, and that the scrap market has moved from surplus to shortage in some regions.
*    More from the International Stainless Steel Forum's forecast -
 China will become the world's leading producer of stainless steel this year.
Asia - the largest producing region at 51% of the world's production, which saw a 5.1% growth in SS production in 2005 over 2004, is expected to see an additional 10% increase in production this year. Asia was the only region that saw an increase in stainless production in 2005.
Western Europe/Africa (producing 36% of the worlds stainless), saw a 6.4% decline in 2005, and is forecast to see a 7.4% increase in 2006.
The Americas, which produced 11% of the world's stainless in 2005, saw a decline of 8.3% in 2005, and is expected to see 6% increase this year.
And Central and Eastern Europe, producing just over 1% of the worlds stainless, felt a 2.5% decrease in 2005, should rebound with a 3.2% increase this year.
Total forecast - worldwide increase of 8.6% this year after a 1% decline in 2005.


LME trading was a mixed bag today, with nickel on the losing side, closing at $9.00/lb.
*    March 1988 - nickel hits an all time high at $10.84/lb. With inflation factored in - that would be worth $16.78/lb today. If you factor in just inflation, the highest price would have been back in 1969, when the then high price of $7.70/lb would be equivalent to $43.00/lb today. Source - Laurentian Media Group in Northern Life by Stan Sudol 5/26/06
*    Tally Metals announces it is adding a copper surcharge to stainless steel products sold after July 1st.
*    LME nickel inventory - plus 144 tons = 17,448 tons


All metals took a dive today, with nickel ending the day at $9.18/lb.
*    European Central Bank raises interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point, Euro slumps against dollar.
*    Might grab a copy of this weeks Barron's for a different perspective on the commodities market. Titled "Bow Tied Commodity Bull", the cover article features an interview with a respected commodity markets expert, Jim Rogers. Mr Rogers, who made is claim to fame in the 70's, is advising those who feel the current bubble in commodities will burst soon, are wrong, and prices could stay strong for another 8-14 years.
*    Norilsk Nickel reports profits up 27% in 2005, due to higher prices in nickel and palladium.
*    More from Goldman Sachs forecast I mentioned Tuesday. GSJBW forecasts the average nickel price for 2006 will be $7.42/lb (about $6.40/lb in last quarter). They also forecast a price of $7.30/lb for 2007 and $8.10/lb for 2008. They forecast China's production of stainless steel to climb 32% this year, and 33% next year. And of the two future large nickel mining projects under construction, they forecast Inco's Goro project will not start production until the 4th quarter of 2007, and BHP's Ravensthorpe project to begin production in the second half of 2008.
*    MEPS forecasts as additional 19% increase in 304 cold rolled prices thru September, globally. They also predict stainless steel prices will decline in the last few months of 2006 and the first half of 2007 -"assuming nickel prices decline". That is kind of like predicting it will be hot in 2007 - assuming you live in a desert.
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 42 tons = 17,304 tons


Metals were generally up today, with nickel ending at $9.66/lb.
*    Falconbridge  and Inco agree to sell Falconbridge's Norwegian Nikkelverk refinery to Canada's LionOre Mining International Ltd. for $650 million. This sale is meant to satisfy competition concerns made by US and European regulators who are analyzing Inco's proposed acquisition of  Falconbridge
*    LME nickel inventory - plus 276 tons = 17,346 tons


All metals were down due in part to comments made by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke yesterday. LME nickel closed the day at $9.51/lb.
*    Goldman Sachs JBWere says we are not just experiencing a spike in metal prices, but states "we believe we are witnessing a structural shift in commodity prices.." Upgrading their long term commodity price forecasts, GSJBW forecasts these changes will leave prices at high levels for years.
*    Reflected in tomorrow's report, you will notice nickel inventories actually gained today, for the first time in several weeks.
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 294 tons = 17,070 tons.


London Metal Exchange was quiet today, with gainers and losers both feeling only slight movement either way. Nickel was unchanged for the day, ending at $9.70/lb.
*    Reuters - 14D filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission - "Inco is undertaking negotiations in response to the Teck offer concerning a potential merger, amalgamation or other form of strategic transaction on a basis consistent with its obligations under the Falconbridge support agreement." (Inco, citing confidential agreements, did not mention who it was negotiating with)
*   Carpenter Technology Corporation announced increases in stainless steel prices last week, with Universal Stainless & Alloy Products following suit today.
*   Russia said to be considering adding nickel to a list of its country's strategic deposits. This would limit companies outside of Russia owning more that 49.5% of any nickel mining project inside Russia.
*   LME nickel inventory - minus 534 tons = 17,364 tons


While the rest of the market was shaky, all wondering if the bears had taken control - or the bulls would return, nickel ended the day up at $9.70/lb.
*    Asia Times, in an article today, quotes China's Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai, as forecasting that country's domestic market will reach $4 trillion US dollars by 2010 and imports will be over $1 trillion. He also states the government will transfer 45 million laborers from the central and west parts of the country over the next five years. (Note - 45,000,000 divided by 60 months = 750,000 laborers and their families moving every month for the next 5 years. The strain on the infrastructure and construction requirements to meet this need is staggering.  Anyone got a moving van?) 
*    Citigroup raised its 2006 nickel price forecast to $7.68/lb average yesterday.
*    Inco Sudbury unions votes to accept new contract offer. How many people were stock piling nickel in anticipation of a strike and what will happen if it all (if any) enters the market?
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 288 tons = 17,898 tons


LME nickel plunged today and closed at $9.32/lb.
*    Thanks to JM at BHP for the correction for 5-28 entry.
*    MEPS raises its stainless steel production output forecast to an increase of 7.5% worldwide, due to continued strong growth in China and renewed demand in the EU.
*    Societe Generale says the commodity price bubble may not burst until the 4th quarter.
*    LME nickel inventory - minus 90 tons = 18,186 tons

Closing price - you may notice different sites giving different "closing" costs. I use the price LME uses, which Joanna James at the Global FX Desk graciously explained, is the settlement price for 3 months nickel after the 2nd ring close offer. LME shows on their site the closing price taken after the last kerb.

Every effort is made to provide factual information in a timely manner as a convenience to the reader. Any opinion given on this web site is just that - a mere opinion, and the author is not responsible for any action taken based off that opinion. Multiple sources are used for obtaining this info and there is no guarantee of its accuracy. Any reproduction without written permission from the author is prohibited.

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30 day Nickel Graph Temporarily Down

5 year Nickel Graph Temporarily Down

(average annual price)

2001 $2.70/lb
2002 $3.07/lb
2003 $4.37/lb
2004 $6.28/lb
2005 $6.69/lb

(average annual price)

2001 $2.36/lb
2002 $3.59/lb
2003 $5.21/lb
2004 $15.92/lb
2005 $32.51/lb

(average annual price)

2005 .74/lb

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