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Nickel price falls 15% to hit new limit down on London Metal Exchange

Traders, brokers and clerks on the trading floor of the open outcry pit at the London Metal Exchange Ltd. in London, U.K., on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022.
Chris J. Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

LONDON — Nickel prices resumed their freefall on Monday, with the benchmark three-month contract falling 15% to hit another new trading limit.

The price hit $31,380 a metric ton as it opened for trade on the London Metal Exchange, according to Refinitiv data.

The 145-year-old exchange, which still has some open outcry trading, has had a wild couple of weeks of nickel trading, with price surges, technical glitches and trading suspensions.

Commodity prices jumped earlier this month on supply fears related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with a barrage of Western sanctions raising disruption fears. Russia is a key producer and exporter of metals and grains and is the world’s third-largest producer of nickel — a key ingredient in stainless steel and a component in lithium-ion batteries.

On March 8, nickel prices more than doubled in a matter of hours. The price climbed above $100,000 a metric ton as China’s Tsingshan Holding Group, one of the world’s top producers, bought large amounts to reduce its short bets on the metal.

Trading was halted on the LME as the move added to a significant price rally. On Wednesday last week, the LME attempted to resume nickel trading after the rare shut down. However, a “systems error” allowed a small number of trades to go through below a newly imposed 5% daily price limit, and the exchange was temporarily halted once again.

The LME then installed a trading range of 8% for Thursday and 12% for Friday. Both sessions saw the price immediately hit its lower limit when trading began. Reuters reported Friday that volumes were low and few buyers were willing to pay the LME price, which was above that on the Shanghai Futures Exchange.

Speaking before the open on Wednesday, Matthew Chamberlain, CEO of the LME, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” that the exchange was “absolutely mindful of the impact that this has had on so many people and we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Chamberlain said the LME had “deliberately prioritized stability” by setting a relatively narrow range of daily trading limits, but these could soon be widened if the exchange observed a “more orderly market.”

–CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this article.

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