Nickel prices trigger chain reaction

The metal market has always been notoriously volatile, but one base metal that has experienced sharp price increases over the last 12 months is nickel.

Although needed by manufacturers for its corrosion resistance, toughness and strength in all temperatures, the price increase perhaps reflects its growing use in batteries as demand grows for electric vehicles (EVs) and large-scale energy storage.

The rise is likely to put pressure on component prices, according to David Brereton, sales director for Borough Ltd, ‘We have worked hard over decades to perfect our ability to chrome plate plastic components and nickel plays a critical role,’ he said.

‘It is the nickel and the way we apply it that allows us to deliver not only the bright chrome required for exterior trim, but the satin finish finding favour for interior highlights and touch points,’ David added.

Since July 2017, the price of nickel has steadily increased, almost doubling in price and experiencing its biggest one-day increase since 2008, jumping 10 per cent.

One of the main contributing factors to the increase came earlier this year, with concerns about Russia’s supply of the metal following US sanctions against Russian aluminium producer Rusal.

Prices for nickel rose to a high of $15,875 per tonne, the highest level since 2014, as traders expressed concerns that metal from Russian producer Norilsk Nickel might be impacted if sanctions on Russia expanded to other companies.

Another contributing factor is China doubling its imports to 6.6 million tonnes in the first quarter of 2018, compared to the same time last year.