How the London Metals Exchange saved the nickel short-sellers’ bacon

Short sellers were caught out as the price of nickel briefly soared to $100,000 a tonne. But the London Metals Exchange saved their skins by halting trading for more than a week.

Nickel trading on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was suspended for more than a week after the metal briefly soared to $100,000 a tonne. Nickel, which is used to make stainless steel and electric-vehicle batteries, has recently traded for between $10,000 and $20,000 a tonne, but on 7-8 March, the price rose by 250%, prompting the LME to halt trading until 16 March. 

Miners and manufacturers use the LME market to hedge their exposure to price volatility, says Bloomberg. Some – notably Chinese tycoon Xiang Guangda  – had made big bets that nickel would fall because of rising production in Indonesia. Yet sanctions on Russia, the world’s third-largest producer, instead gave the price a boost. That forced bears to buy back futures to cover their positions, driving the price even higher.

When prices leapt by $30,000 in a matter of minutes early on 8 March, the LME halted trading. Controversially, it also cancelled the near-$4bn of nickel trades that were made in the hours preceding the surge, effectively resetting the market to the previous day’s $48,078 closing level. That drew fury from some traders, says the Financial Times. By “scrubbing the day from the record books”, they say the exchange has taken the side of squeezed short-sellers and brokers over those who bet the right way.

Yet for all the drama, nickel looks likely to come back down to earth soon, says David Fickling on Bloomberg. High prices will give smelters in China an incentive to convert lower-quality nickel into the more premium variety traded on the LME. And new plants in Indonesia that tap abundant, but low-grade, laterite ores suggest that we may be on the verge of unlocking “a significant new source” of global supply. “Prices driven by a short squeeze of this sort tend to calm down rapidly.”

Recommended

Sterling crashes to its lowest since 1985 after mini-Budget
Currencies

Sterling crashes to its lowest since 1985 after mini-Budget

The pound has fallen hard and is heading towards parity with the US dollar. Saloni Sardana explains why, and what it means for the UK, for markets and…
23 Sep 2022
Earn 3.7% from the best savings accounts
Savings

Earn 3.7% from the best savings accounts

With inflation topping 10%, your savings won't keep pace with the rising cost of living. But you can at least slow the rate at which your money is los…
23 Sep 2022
Three top-notch Asian stocks to buy
Share tips

Three top-notch Asian stocks to buy

Professional investors Adrian Lim and Pruksa Iamthongthong, managers of the Asia Dragon Trust, pick three of their favourite Asian stocks to buy now.
23 Sep 2022
How to use Section 75 credit card protection for your purchases
Credit cards

How to use Section 75 credit card protection for your purchases

Your credit card can give you extra protection when the goods or services you purchase fall short of your expectations. Ruth Jackson-Kirby explains ho…
23 Sep 2022

Most Popular

Why we should abolish stamp duty – the worst tax in Britain
Tax

Why we should abolish stamp duty – the worst tax in Britain

Stamp duty is Britain’s most horrible tax. We should forget cutting it and abolish it altogether, says Merryn Somerset Webb.
22 Sep 2022
Mini-Budget: stamp duty and income tax cut as Kwarteng targets growth
Tax

Mini-Budget: stamp duty and income tax cut as Kwarteng targets growth

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced sweeping tax cuts in his mini-Budget statement. Here's what was said.
23 Sep 2022
Could gold be the basis for a new global currency?
Gold

Could gold be the basis for a new global currency?

Gold has always been the most reliable form of money. Now collaboration between China and Russia could lead to a new gold-backed means of exchange – g…
22 Sep 2022