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Nickel Price Forecast: Top Trends That Will Impact Nickel in 2024

Nickel prices started 2023 high following a rally at the end of 2022, but factors including supply and demand issues saw the price decline throughout the year to close nearly 50 percent lower at US$16,375 on December 27.

Oversupply was the main factor affecting the price in 2023, in part due to rapidly increasing supply in recent years. The majority of that has come from Indonesia, which now accounts for more than 50 percent of the global nickel supply. According to Jason Sappor, senior analyst with S&P Global Insight, the nickel surplus for the year had ballooned to its largest in 10 years at 221,000 metric tons (MT).

The excess in supply was compounded by continued weakened demand out of China, which has continued to struggle following the ending of the country’s zero-COVID policy in January. China closed the year with its central bank working to stimulate the economy to prevent runaway deflation.

What does 2024 have in store for nickel? The Investing News Network spoke to experts about what could come to pass for the metal in the next year.


Nickel is coming into the year with a hold-over surplus from 2023. This glut has mainly come from an increase in class 2, lower-purity nickel produced in Indonesia, but it has also been driven by an increase in the production of class 1, higher-purity product from China. The former category, which includes nickel pig iron and ferronickel, is used in products such as steel, while the latter is necessary to create nickel sulfate and nickel cathodes for electric vehicles.

However, due to decreased demand for both products, this oversupply was a factor in driving down prices. “We believe rising output in Indonesia will continue to pressure nickel prices next year,” Ewa Manthey, commodities strategist with ING, told INN at the end of 2023.

Concerns over the oversupply issue have been reflected in core metals markets, and Manthey indicated the London Metals Exchange (LME) has been the most bearish it has been since 2019, with nickel taking the largest short position of the six LME base metals.

“This build-up is making nickel vulnerable to violent price spikes should inventors unwind their short positions,” Manthey said. This already occurred once in 2022, when the nickel price spiked rapidly to over US$100,000 before the exchange cancelled billions of dollars in trades and suspended nickel trading. The LME’s approach was recently ruled lawful by London’s High Court.

The International Nickel Study Group (INSG), an intergovernmental body consisting of government and industry representatives, met in October to discuss the current state and outlook of nickel markets.

At the time, the group forecast the surplus conditions to continue into 2024, reaching 239,000 MT, off increases in nickel pig iron from Indonesia. Meanwhile, decreases in nickel pig iron from China will be offset by increases in nickel cathode and nickel sulphate production.

Even though the INSG expects demand to grow by about 279,000 MT — from 3.195 million MT in 2023 to 3.474 million in 2024 — that would still fall short of its anticipated production increase of 296,000 MT, from 3.417 million MT in 2023 to 3.713 million MT.

​Chinese recovery not so stainless

At the outset of 2023, the view was that demand would increase as China ended its strict zero-COVID policy and the country began to return to normal. The construction industry in the country is a principal consumer of nickel, which is used for the production of stainless steel.

However, the recovery was slower than predicted and demand from the real estate sector never materialized. “China’s flagging recovery following Covid lockdowns has hurt the country’s construction sector and has weighed on demand for nickel this year,” said Manthey.

While the recovery in China’s real estate sector negatively impacted nickel demand and pricing through 2023, according to Fitch Ratings’s 2024 China Property Developers Outlook, the country has been targeting construction and development policy in the higher-tier cities and injecting liquidity in the market. This has largely been a balancing act as it tries to stem deflation in its market and battles with inflation globally.

Policy focused on domestic demand in the real estate sector would ultimately provide upward pressure for nickel, but as 2023 comes to a close more economists are starting to forecast a continued downward trend in the Chinese economy in the next year.

Despite this, the INSG forecast in October that demand for stainless steel would grow in the second half of 2023, and the group anticipated further growth in 2024.

Demand from EVs driving forward

While the Chinese real estate market might be a key factor in demand for nickel, it's not the only one.

“Global consumption for nickel is expected to increase due to recovery of the stainless-steel sector and increased usage of nickel in EV batteries,” Manthey said. “Batteries now account for almost 17% of total nickel demand, behind stainless steel.”

As a cathode material in EV batteries, nickel has become a critical component to the transition away from fossil fuels, which the expert anticipates will help its price in the future.

“The metal’s appeal to investors as a key green metal will support higher prices in the longer term,” Manthey said.

While demand for battery-grade nickel is predicted to grow over the next few years as the metal is used in the prolific nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) cathodes, manufacturers and scientists have been working to find alternative that don’t rely on nickel and cobalt due to environmental and human rights concerns as well as the high costs of these cathodes.

Lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries have become a contender in recent years, growing in popularity in Asia and seeing uptake from major producers like Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), owing to their longer lifespans and lower production costs. However, because of their lower range, LFP batteries have low demand in regions such as North America, where the ability to drive long distances is an important factor in purchase decisions. This means that for now, NMC batteries will remain an essential part of the electric vehicle landscape.

EV demand has also declined recently as the industry faces headwinds, including charging infrastructure shortfalls, inconsistent supply chains and elevated interest rates, that have soured consumer interest. These factors have already started to figure into plans as Ford and GM among others have cut production forecasts for 2024.

What will happen to the price in 2024

Following its near 50 percent drop in 2023, the nickel price is expected to be range bound for most of 2024, according to the experts INN spoke with.

“While LME nickel prices are expected to find support from a weaker US dollar in 2024 as the Fed eases monetary policy, we expect prices to remain subdued next year as further primary nickel output growth from Indonesia and China keeps the market in a surplus for the third consecutive year,” Sappor said.

Flat nickel prices are a sentiment echoed by Manthey. “We see prices averaging $16,600 per MT in Q1 with prices gradually moving up to average $17,000 per MT. We forecast an average of $16,813 per MT in 2024,” she said. Manthey also noted that prices would remain elevated in comparison to the average prices before nickel’s short squeeze in March 2022.

Sappor suggested the high surpluses and range-bound prices may be a catalyst for producers to reduce their output. “Nickel prices have sunk deeper into the global production cost curve, raising the possibility that the market could be hit by price-supportive mine supply curtailments,” he said.

However, at this time there is no indication from producers they will ease production quotas next year, and Vale (NYSE:VALE), one of the world’s top nickel miners, is expecting its Indonesian subsidiary to produce slightly more than in 2023.

​Investor takeaway

Much like the rest of the mining industry, nickel is being affected by opposing macroeconomic forces in the post-COVID era.

Higher interest rates are stymying investment across the mining industry and also lowering demand for big-ticket items like real estate and cars that help to broadly drive demand for metals.

For nickel, this means another year of oversupplied markets. A potential rebound from government stimulus in the Chinese real estate market and increased demand from up-front tax credits for EVs may shift the trajectory for the metal, but the headwinds in 2024 look to be strong.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time news updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Dean Belder, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.


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