Nickel has lost ground in the past month, with spot prices falling from US$17,930 per metric ton on the London Metal Exchange to $15,975, according to prices from Metal-Pages.
That partly reflects weaker demand for stainless steel, which accounts for 66 percent of global nickel consumption. China’s stainless steel production has grown just 1.4 percent so far this year, and output has declined in North America and Europe, according to MetalMiner. China is by far the world’s biggest steel producer; the World Steel Association pegged the country’s total steel output (including stainless) at 683.9 million metric tons in 2011 — far ahead of second-place Japan at 107.6 million MT.
However, MetalMiner also noted that nickel consumption for non-stainless-steel uses has increased 8 percent so far this year. As well, the site predicted that nickel could rebound in 2013 as lower prices encourage production of more nickel-bearing steels.