China’s nickel ore imports from the Philippines fell from a record high as buyers hesitated to purchase amid declining prices.
Supplies from the Southeast Asian nation in September fell 15 percent to 4.52 million metric tons, down from 5.33 million the previous month, data released today by China’s General Administration of Customs showed. Imports rose 27 percent from a year earlier, according to the data.
Nickel prices in London have climbed more than 10 percent this year after Indonesia, the world’s biggest mine producer of the metal, began a ban on ore exports in January. Chinese producers of nickel pig iron, a lower-grade alternative of the refined metal, have since turned to the Philippines, making it the country China’s largest supplier. Total imports fell 31 percent from the same month last year to 4.64 million tons, according to the customs data. Shipments may decline in the coming months as monsoon rains reduce mine production and hinder seaborne transport.
“Some factories may have purchased less after huge buying in August,” said Celia Wang, an analyst at Beijing Antaike Information Development Co. “Falling ore prices in China may also help curb appetites.”
Ore with 0.9 percent to 1 percent metal content was at 250 yuan ($41) per wet ton yesterday, the lowest since 2011 and down 41 percent from June, according to data from SMM Information & Technology Co. Ore with 1.4 percent to 1.6 percent nickel content fell 7 percent in September and traded at 430 yuan yesterday.
Falling low-grade ore prices and sustainable nickel pig iron production reflect ample supplies in China and may indicate increasing consumption of high-grade feedstock, said Zhao Qiannan, a nickel market analyst at Mysteel.com, consultant in Shanghai.
The metal’s global surplus fell 85 percent in the first eight months of this year to 13,700 tons, compared with the same period in 2013, according to a report e-mailed today from the International Nickel Study Group. Consumption will outpace supply by 20,000 tons next year, the group said.
China’s refined nickel exports in September were 8,811 tons, more than triple from year earlier, customs data showed. Exports were down from a record 17,168 tons in August.
The metal for delivery in three months on the London Metal Exchange rose 0.4 percent to $15,357 a ton as of 3:19 p.m. in Shanghai. Prices have dropped 29 percent since reaching a peak this year in May.