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March 8, 2022updated 09 Mar 2022 10:28am

London Metals Exchange suspends nickel trading as prices explode

Sanctions against Russia have caused worry on metal markets, which spiralled out of control on Tuesday.

By Matt Farmer

The London Metals Exchange has paused trading and cancelled orders of nickel as prices rose more than 250% in one day.

On Monday morning, commodities markets opened with 3-month nickel contract prices sitting at $29,750 per ton. By the end of the day, this had risen to $42,990, a 44% increase. This dramatic climb only increased on Tuesday, with prices briefly climbing to more than $100,000 per tonne in early morning trading.

At 8:15am UTC, the London Metals Exchange suspended trading of its three-month nickel deliveries for the rest of the day. A notice by the exchange said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “had evidently affected the nickel market in particular”. It also said it will “give consideration to a multi-day closure, given the geopolitical situation which underlines recent price moves”.

Later, an exchange notice announced it would cancel all trades made that morning, and all due deliveries would be delayed to at least Wednesday.

The price surge comes amid anticipation of disruption to Russian nickel supplies. Russia exports approximately $4bn of nickel per year, making up around 1% of all its exports. The country’s invasion of Ukraine has caused many nations to impose economic sanctions against it, threatening continuity of nickel trade.

Nickel forms an essential part of most rechargeable batteries. As a result, US investment bank Morgan Stanley warned that surging nickel prices could increase the cost of an average electric vehicle by approximately $1,000. Nickel prices were already around a 10-year high, incentivising new investment in the market. Bloomberg has reported on the Chinese businessman Xiang Guangda, who had shorted nickel prices ahead of setting up new mines in Indonesia. Xiang now faces billions in costs for the trade.

Russia also produces around $6.75bn of gold exports per year. Since the invasion, notoriously-steady gold prices have risen from opening at around $1,900 per troy ounce on 23 February to opening above $2,000 per troy ounce on Tuesday.

Oil and gas prices have also steadily risen, as European countries continue talks with the US about possible cuts to Russian energy imports.

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