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BMI lowers outlook for nickel price

11th January 2024

By: Marleny Arnoldi

Deputy Editor Online

     

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Research firm BMI has revised downward its nickel price forecast for this year to $20 000/t from $20 600/t as the market remains in a supply glut.

Simultaneously, weak Mainland Chinese demand and a limited growth outlook across major markets will place a cap on prices.

Nevertheless, BMI foresees some support from the weakening of the dollar throughout this year, which will prevent prices from falling back to pre-pandemic levels.

BMI expects the nickel market to remain in surplus this year, with the balance hovering at about 337 200 t, amid a rise in supply from key producers such as Indonesia while a subdued global economic outlook presents downside risks to demand.

Beyond that, the firm expects to see the market go into deficit by 2028, as booming demand for nickel from the electric vehicle (EV) battery industry drives up overall nickel consumption.

Prices will remain elevated over the coming decade, which will encourage smelters to ramp up output, although we do not anticipate that this supply growth will catch up with demand.

“We expect the market will tip into a slight deficit by 2028, as demand rises alongside the acceleration of the green energy,” BMI explains.

PRODUCTION

BMI forecasts global refined nickel production to rise from 4.1-million tonnes this year to 6.8-million tonnes in 2032.

High prices will encourage firms to ramp up smelting and refining capacity as project economics become increasingly attractive. Indonesia, China, Japan, Canada and Australia, will see steady production growth over the coming years.

In contrast, Russian production growth will be hit by economic sanctions on the country and a weak project pipeline of nickel mines to feed domestic smelters.

Indonesia's ban on nickel ore exports will constrain the pace of refined nickel production growth in other markets by limiting the availability of nickel ore feedstock.

This will encourage investment in alternative sources of nickel ore.

Indonesia is now the leading producer of refined nickel globally as domestic and foreign firms rapidly expand the country's nickel refining capacity.

“We expect Indonesia to remain the leading refined nickel producer over the forecast period 2023 to 2032, with production rising from 1.5-million tonnes in 2023 to 3.3-million tonnes in 2032.

CONSUMPTION

Global consumption is expected to have increased in 2023, despite a subdued global growth outlook and weak Mainland Chinese demand. BMI anticipates demand will rise from 3.7-million tonnes in 2023 to 4-million tonnes this year.  

Stainless steel production is responsible for 63% of global nickel demand, according to the International Nickel Study Group, and will remain the primary first use of nickel.

However, the growing production of EVs will be a major addition to nickel consumption over the coming decade.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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