SHANGHAI, Nov 21 (SMM) – China imported 24,300 mt of nickel unwrought, not alloyed in October, up 35% month on month and 54% year on year, showed data from China Customs.
This grew imports in January-October to 197,500 mt, standing 24.4% higher than the same period last year.
Data also showed that some 19,200 mt of October’s imports entered the domestic spot market and the rest was parked in the bonded warehouses.
Large numbers of forward cargoes arrived at Chinese ports in October as the import arbitrage window opened for long in September, encouraging importers to move their cargoes to the domestic market.
Besides, demand for nickel was widely expected to be robust in September-October when a traditional high season would grow output of stainless steel and without anticipation of substantial output addition of nickel pig iron (NPI) in 2018.
However, earlier-than-expected new NPI capacity in Shandong, NPI inflows from Indonesia and slower-than-expected stainless steel output growth in domestic sent SHFE nickel prices down through 100,000 yuan/mt in late October.
Declines in nickel prices and pessimistic outlooks on the macro environment eroded purchasing enthusiasm among stainless steel plants and grew social inventories of nickel.
Nickel social inventories across east China rose for three consecutive weeks in November. Russian materials were offered in discounts of some 200 yuan/mt against the on-month contract on the Wuxi Stainless Steel Exchange as of Wednesday November 21, compared to premiums of 500 yuan/mt at the beginning of this month.
SMM expects China’s imports of nickel unwrought, not alloyed to fall to 17,000-19,000 mt in November on fewer arbitrage opportunities in October.