Analysis and consultancy company Fitch Solutions Macro Research (part of the Fitch Group but separate and distinct from sister company Fitch Ratings) has reduced its forecast nickel price for 2019, while remaining confident that it will thereafter trend upwards again. Its previous nickel price forecast for 2019, $15 000/t, has been revised downwards to $14 500/t. This is because the metal’s price did worse than expected during the second half of this year.
“Nickel was on track to beat the rest of the metals complex in June 2018 before prices were dragged lower by negative market sentiment as a result of the escalating US-China trade dispute,” stated the consultancy in its recent report, 'Commodity Price Forecast – Nickel: Downside Revision Due To Short-Term Headwinds'.
“In recent months, mounting headwinds on the supply and demand side have added further losses to nickel prices,” added the report. “On the supply side, stronger production than expected from Indonesia and more recently an announcement by the Philippine government that it is giving a number of suspended mines the opportunity to recommence production if they address environmental concerns, have weighed on prices.”
“On the demand side, a drop in steel reinforcing (rebar) prices due to faltering Chinese demand, put further downside pressure on nickel prices,” it pointed out. “Nickel is a key component in the production of stainless steel, used in steel rebar.”
On the other hand, the fundamentals undergirding the worldwide nickel market “remain tight”. Fitch Solutions is predicting a global nickel market deficit of 49 900 t next year. This is based on rising Chinese demand. High frequency data from Bloomberg shows the global nickel market had a deficit of 10 500 t as of August. This was the result of strong demand growth in China, which, in year-on-year terms, averaged 14.1% from January to August this year. On top of this, warehouse stocks dropped significantly over the same period. London Metals Exchange warehouse stocks fell from 360 000 t to 240 000 t, while Shanghai Futures Exchange warehouse stocks dropped from 48 000 t to 18 000 t.
“We forecast the global nickel market to remain in deficit over the next five years, although the shortfall will narrow from –61.9 kt [thousand tons] in 2018 to –26.5 kt in 2022, as global production begins to catch up with consumption levels,” observed the report. “Nevertheless the market will remain tight …. As such we forecast prices to progressively rise from an average of [$]14 500[/t] in 2019 to [$]16 250[/t] in 2022.”