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LME nickel chaos chills metals trading activity: Andy Home


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LONDON — The London Metal Exchange’s (LME) suspension of its nickel contract in March has led to a pointy drop in metals trading exercise.

Total LME volumes slumped by 21% over the second quarter relative to the primary three months of 2022.

Nickel was unsurprisingly the largest casualty with the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) nickel contract additionally going into deep freeze.

But the chilliness impact has unfold by all of the LME’s core base metals merchandise within the final three months, suggesting an exit by institutional gamers sad with the trade’s cancellation of nickel trades, a call that’s now being challenged https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/lme-nickel-lawsuits-are-about-principle-much-money-2022-06-09 within the British authorized system.

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The LME’s nickel woes are interwoven with larger macro tendencies.

COVID-19 lockdowns depressed Shanghai trading volumes throughout each base and metal contracts within the first half of the yr.

Fears of recession are presently producing a much wider investor exodus from the commodity sector, sarcastically simply as retail gamers appear to be getting an urge for food for industrial metals.


The LME’s nickel contract limped again into life after six days of suspension however volumes have been a lot diminished ever since.

Average day by day volumes close to halved within the wake of the fateful intervention on March 8. May’s tally of 40,177 heaps (each futures and choices) was the bottom since January 2012.

Nickel’s liquidity drain has been even starker on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE), which noticed first-half trading volumes collapse by 69% year-on-year. Open curiosity on the finish of June was 95,914 contracts, in contrast with 227,738 a yr earlier.

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LME nickel futures open curiosity fell to 160,528 heaps in May, its lowest degree since 2012, when the worldwide market nickel was a lot smaller.

U.S. trade CME Group has an ever-growing variety of metals contracts however not a nickel one – but – which signifies that falling participation in each London and Shanghai poses some severe long-term questions over how the trade, significantly the fast-expanding battery sector, needs to hedge its worth publicity.


Other core LME contracts corresponding to aluminum, copper and zinc have additionally seen open curiosity slide since March, a risk-off ripple impact spreading out from the nickel chaos.

Headline LME volumes had been down by only one.9% year-on-year within the first six months of 2022 – and simply 1.1% on a median day by day foundation – however that masks a story of two quarters.

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Trading exercise was robust in each January and February and even by the top of March headline quantity development was working at 9.5% year-on-year.

All that modified within the second quarter and by the top of June the one core contracts nonetheless displaying year-on-year development had been zinc (up 7.2%) and lead (up 1.5%).

The collateral harm has to date been restricted to the bottom metals and never metal trading.

Indeed, the LME’s two greatest quantity performers within the first half of the yr had been its metal rebar contract, up 83%, and its metal scrap contract, up 31% on the identical interval of 2021.

CME’s ferrous contracts additionally noticed robust across-the-board quantity development in January-June.

Steel futures are nonetheless a comparatively current evolution outdoors of China however seem like constructing momentum on each side of the Atlantic.

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LME metal volumes, nevertheless, are nonetheless small relative to the primary established base metals contracts, which is the place market participation has dwindled over the second quarter.

The March nickel mayhem has performed a decisive position however the pattern of falling market open curiosity dates again not less than a yr and within the case of copper lots longer.


LME copper open curiosity has been trending broadly decrease since 2015 and that on the CME’s copper contract since 2017.

LME copper volumes have fallen yearly since 2018 and had been down by one other 7.6% within the first half of 2022, the weakest efficiency among the many main contracts, even nickel.

The CME copper contract fared worse, futures volumes tumbling 27% with solely partial mitigation from increased choices exercise.

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Shanghai skilled a 48% slide in copper futures exercise, additionally partly offset by a increase in choices trading, the place volumes rose by 30% and exceeded a million heaps for less than the second time ever in June.

Indeed, copper trading exercise has been falling just about in tandem throughout the LME, the CME and the Shanghai markets each month since July 2021.

Copper’s spectacular COVID-19 worth restoration from below $5,000 per tonne within the first quarter of 2020 to the early March peak of $10,727.50 seems to have actively deterred participation on all three main world trading hubs.

This is curious given Doctor Copper’s historic recognition with buyers as a proxy for financial development, a extremely moveable and tradeable goal because the onset of the coronavirus early in 2020.

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Nor does it say a lot concerning the quantity of buy-in to copper’s longer-term bull narrative as key vitality transition enabler.

There are indicators, nevertheless, that retail buyers could also be venturing the place big-hitter funds are fearful to tread.


One small a part of the metallic trading universe is rising quick, even whereas exercise within the main trade contracts languishes.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx), which owns the LME, launched its “mini” base metallic contracts in August 2019, smaller variations of the 25-tonne contracts traded on the London market.

The dollar-denominated merchandise noticed volumes greater than double to 417,545 contracts final yr they usually rose an extra 51% within the first half of this, with liquidity focused on zinc, aluminum and copper in that order.

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The contracts are aimed squarely at buyers, significantly retail gamers on the lookout for a slice of the metals trading pie.

So too is the CME’s new “micro” copper contract, a tenth of the dimensions of the trade’s prime copper contract, “conveniently sized and tailored for the individual investor,” based on the CME web site.

The contract was solely launched in May however has already notched up 130,331 trades and had 1,157 a number of open curiosity on the finish of June.

The LME gave up on mini contracts in 2013 after three years of lackluster trading, however it appears that evidently practically a decade later their time has come as retail gamers search for a manner into the economic metals trading enviornment.

The opinions expressed listed below are these of the writer, a columnist for Reuters

(Editing by David Evans)



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