Base Metals & Oil today

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Economic events in today’s market:

  • Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Rate Statement
  • UK Services Purchasing Managers Index (PMI)
  • Australia Interest Rate Decision


Short review of metal prices today  


Speaking of today’s trade, base metal movement & their volatility is mixed. The three month copper price rose up for 0.2%, leveling the $6,939 per tonne. Following, the lead price is 0.1% up. While the other base metals see a downwards movement with losses. Nickel prices are down for 0.2%, while the tin and lead prices are 0.4% lower.

Total trade volume today is average. Observing yesterday, monday’s trade came out with slight gains in copper and nickel. Aluminium prices fell for 1.1%.

Currently, precious metals are up total 0.2%. Spot gold price rose for a 0.2%, while palladium prices are also 0.2% up. Silver is up for 0.1%.

In SHFE Today, steel prices were 0.1% up. The gold and silver prices grew for 0.3%, and 0.6% respectively.

Observing the indices, and asian equities this morning.. Firstly, we notice the Kospi off 0.2%. Secondly, the Nikkei down 0.6%. Thirdly, the ASX 200 little changed, while the Hang Seng is up 0.2%. Finishing with the CSI 300 up 0.5%.


U.S. Oil industry is recovering from Harvey; Gasoline prices are slipping


Gasoline prices in the U.S. fell down, as a result of devastation which Harvey caused. Now the pipelines, shipping channels and all the capacity is easily recovering and restarting their operations.

According to U.S. guard reports, the Gulf Coast is recovering as Harvey had a great impact on refining capacities all over the shore. They still may are some restrictions on vessel drafts.



Key pipelines for fuel should be restarted. The production of oil in oil refineries should also improve the outputs.  

“ Harvey dumped as much as 50 inches (127 cm) of rain over Texas and Louisiana, forcing officials to close or restrict operations at ports from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana. It also forced the closure of nearly a quarter of the nation’s oil refining capacity.” (Reuters)


In conclusion, while base metals are slightly volatile, some are still showing the upwards trend. Oil market in U.S. is recovering from Harvey impact, while this also is affecting the global market and the global oil supplies.


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Commodities – Daily News

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Top 5 things to know in markets Today:


  1. North Korea fires missile over Japan
  2. Global stocks sinking as a result of North Korea actions
  3. Investors pile into safe-heavens
  4. Euro rises above 1,20$ for the first time since 2015 !
  5. Energy markets continuing to process Harvey hurricane consequences

Zawiya oil refinery in Libya: Not operating in full capacity

Zawiya Oil refinery is the biggest plant operating in Libya. It usually gives the outputs of 120,000 barrels per day. Starting with this week, the trend changed. It was working half capacity. At only 60,000 bpd. Influenced by the Sharara oilfield shutdown.

Sharara Oilfield had a period of its equipment close down. Due to pipeline blockade, it was not able to transfer crude to Zawiya.

This shutdown in Shahara came as a result of August 10-25th period. It is when crude distillation towers were closed .Sharara has been shut down for around a week due to military block of a pipeline linking it to the Zawiya oil terminal.

Sharara’s half capacity outputs, and its shut down led to NOC subsidiary Agoco to also shut down the 10,000 barrels per day in Hamada oil plant.

Hamada shares export infrastructure with Sharara.


Glencore Rolleston mine blocked amid corporate deals

Yesterday, Glencore announced it was looking to sell a second Australian coal mine.

“Part of the Swiss-based resource giant’s rethink on how it deploys capital as its reins in debt and commodities prices rise.”


Glencore, with its Japanese joint venture partners, Itochu Corp and Sumitomo Corp would start a “sales process” for its Rolleston mine. The mine produces thermal coal used in electricity market. 

Interesting thing is that Rolleston is geographically removed from Glencore’s main collieries. Which makes it less economic from a shipping standpoint.

Glencore corp. owns 75 percent of the Rolleston mine. Its Japanese partners each, are holding 12.5 percent. Both minority partners said they also intend to sell their interest.


Hurricane in Gulf Coast damaging Gasoline & Oil Markets

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Hurricane Harvey

During the weekend a huge hurricane hit U.S. Gulf coast!

It crippled Houston and flooded the Texas area. The port in Houston is damaged really serious and it knocked down the crude production in numerous refineries along the shore.

Gasoline prices hit two-year highs, influenced by massive floods caused by the storm. It forced U.S. Gulf Coast to ship orders from across the sea.


Oil market

Observing crude markets, U.S. futures fell. Later, U.S. refinery shutdowns could cause the reduced demand for American crude.

Brent futures also eased.

The Harvey hurricane killed at least 2 people, and it is the strongest hurricane in last half a century. It caused a Houston port closure, while it shut down numeros refineries.

“The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Monday that Harvey was moving away from the coast but was expected to linger close to the shore through Tuesday.”

“The floods would spread from Texas eastward to Louisiana.”


Oil refining in Texas 

Oil refining in Texas composes of 5.6 million barrels of refining capacity daily. Louisiana has 3.3 million barrels. The storm shut down over 2 million bpd.

“Spot prices for U.S. gasoline futures surged 7 percent to a peak of $1.7799 per gallon, the highest level since late July 2015, before easing to $1.7281 by 0703 GMT.” (Reuters)

To replace the lost outputs, and in order to avoid fuel shortage, U.S. traders were shipping cargoes from North Asia.


Elliott’s BHP acquisition: Dividends Yes; Total Victory – Not yet;

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Who lightened the area?

Firstly, if we observe the subject closely, it is inviting to consider BHP Billiton as the one who gouged into demands by Elliott Advisors. As well they seem to have together agreed about selling BHP’s U.S. onshore oil & gas business.

The main thing to mention is that in an official letter from April, Elliott had 3 major points. Two of which were depriving the U.S. shale assets and pushing up the shareholder returns.

But the thing we ask ourselves is, whether the BHP’s decision was firmly inspired by Elliott.. Or it would have happened either way.

Observing the dividends, it is clear that BHP would follow it’s bigger fellow Rio Tinto moves. Trying to return as much cash as possible to their investors. In particular the huge boost of free cash flow coming from higher prices of their base: Iron ore and Coal.



Last Tuesday BHP said that it would triple its final dividend to $0.43 a share. Which is slightly below the expectations of analysts.

”The world’s largest mining company also posted a five-fold rise in annual underlying profit to $6.7 billion for the year to June 30, which was below the market consensus for earnings of around $7.4 billion. (Reuters)”

It could be argued the increase in the dividend was generous.

Second thing worth mentioning, is that BHP decided to pay down net debt. The debt was at the beggining reduced at $10 billion, and this move is definitely to strengthen the company’s balance sheet.

Furthermore, it is possible that Elliott would have preferred the FCF being generated by BHP & used for a share buyback. Makes it much more effective than being used in cutting debt.

“We have determined that our onshore U.S. assets are non-core.”

“We are actively pursuing options to exit these assets for value.” BHP said in its results presentation (Reuters)

Elliott definitely deserves credits for finding a way to enter BHP’s underperforming assets. It is also clear that at some point they saw that $20 investment in shale, made 6 years ago, was not the greatest move they made.


Investors Aims

What is likely to be of more relevance to Elliott, and other investors, is how sustainable are BHP’s increased dividends.

When making a commentary, the company was very cautious. Stating that Crude Oil prices will trend higher. Steel demand will slightly grow. While the cost curve for the iron ore is going to continue flattening.

BHP is seeing a slight uncertainty in China’s metallurgical coal; but the outlook for overseas market is in all positive.

In tanto, it seems that BHP isn’t expecting the prices of its major commodities to rally strong. But, it equally it is not forecasting any important declines.

In conclusion, the company should remain a strong generator of cash.  Adding & assuming it remains committed to capital discipline. Returns to main shareholders can increase. But, it’s highly unlikely that the massive jump in dividends, as the one from June 30th will repeat soon…


Statoil: Technology question cuts off Arctic drilling campaign

Statoil is Norwegian state oil company. It stopped drilling in the Barents Sea in the Arctic region. Right after the court gave away the temporary warrant in a technology dispute with a small Norwegian firm.

What did exactly happen?

Norwegian company Neo Drill said the technology which Stat Oil was using is based on its patent. It is the patented Conductor Anchor Node technology which it has been developing since 2000.

Later the Stavanger court has put a ban on Statoil’s use of this Cap-X drilling technology.

Statoil started drilling in the Barents Sea this year. During the last week it had to stop the operations. Meanwhile it was trying to make sure that it can transfer the business to an alternative plan, if this work failed.

Statoil started to deeply explore Norwegian cost this year. Putting focus on the Barents Sea.

”According to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate the area could hold two-thirds of all undiscovered resources off the Norwegian coast.” (Reuters)

“We are taking steps to comply with the decision. We are currently securing the (Blaamann) well and that will take a few days to complete.” Eskil Eriksen said.

He said it was not clear when is the possible period Statoil could restart drilling at Blaamann. But he also explained that the company was expecting to finish its work in the Barrents Sea by the end of this year.

“We will mobilize the alternative technology in time to continue the drilling, and we will complete the Barents Sea campaign as planned.”

The Technology

Speaking about its further plans, Statoil sources said it aims to use Cap-X technology for all the five wells in the Barents Sea. Observing the Korpfjell border area, in border with Russia, it also plans to use the same technology.

When in 2013 Statoil presented its technology for the first time, it said that technology development started to help develop explorations in the Barents Sea.

However, Neo Drill noted that the presented Cap-X technology has the main parts which remind of their CAN technology. And the important fact is that Statoil really had the access to CAN, as Neo Drill’s partner. It is so since 2001, and later it had the 30% stake in this business.

“Statoil has thereby had full access to sensitive technical information related to the CAN-technology in Neo Drill.”

Back in 2016, Statoil denied using Neo Drill’s technology. But, earlier during the years, it had asked Neo Drill for a CAN license. It did not succeed to take a license because the two companies were not able to agree on the terms.

When asked to comment, Statoil did not want to explain themselves. Referring to the ongoing court process. But their source said that the current court’s decision is based on the “wrong information”.


Statoil is going to speak on Wednesday, at the Stavanger court.


The Week Ahead: Crude Oil futures


Short recollection:

This Friday, oil futures leveled higher. Recovering from the previous 5% drop which was the consequence of higher market expectations related to OPEC. Currently, traders are trying to refresh their attitude about Oil market and OPEC’s further steps.

The U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude July contract came on 90 cents. In percentage, that would be around 1.9%. Later it ended at $49.80 a barrel by close of trade Friday. It touched a two-week low of $48.18 earlier in the session.

U.S. benchmark cut the losses to fewer than 2%. Observing the first 4 days of the week it was slightly oscillating, then it plummeted for 4.8% on Thursday.

Following, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil for July delivery added 69 cents to settle at $52.15 a barrel by close of trade. Before that it was hitting a daily trough of $50.71. This level was not seen since May 12.

OPEC and non-OPEC countries decided on Thursday, in Vienna, to prolong the output cuts. Numbers are the same, million barrels per day until the end of the first quarter of 2018.

The agreement was globally accepted. But some of the market participants were still expecting the deeper cuts. In order for global market re-balance to be achieved sooner.


Next OPEC meeting

The next OPEC meeting is scheduled for November this year.

By now, the further production cuts did not have important impact on global inventory levels. Because the countries who are not participating in these output cuts are drilling bigger amounts of their oil. Such as Nigeria, Libya. And of course, the huge U.S. shale outputs.

Baker Hughes on Friday came out with data about U.S. shale drillers. They added rigs for 19th week in a row.

The U.S. rig count rose to the highest levels since April 2015. Declaring that further production gains in their production are ahead.

In order to bring financial markets closer to stability, the deal between OPEC countries and U.S. would be necessary. The constant amounts of Crude oil which are coming from the U.S. shale can only disturb every OPEC’s idea connected with market re-balance.

That definitely won’t be achieved easily, but if achieved would be of a huge value for the global markets.

In the following week, oil traders are going to face weekly information on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined products on Wednesday and Thursday. In order  to track the real strength of demand in the United States.

Having in mind that Monday is a Memorial Day, the reports on these data will come out one day later than the usual.

Important Events to take place in the upcoming week:

Monday, May 29

Markets in the U.S. are closed for Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 31

The American Petroleum Institute will publish the weekly report on U.S. oil supplies.

Thursday, June 1

The U.S. Energy Information Administration is to release weekly data on oil and gasoline stockpiles.

The U.S. government is also set to produce a weekly report on natural gas supplies in storage.

Friday, June 2

Baker Hughes will release weekly data on the U.S. oil rig count.


Will OPEC make it to co-exist with U.S. shale oil ?

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At the beginning , they ignored each other. After a while, they went into a bruising fight. Now, finally, they are talking, although with opposing agendas.

The evolution of the relationship between OPEC and the United States oil industry now lasts for about 5 years. 5 years ago, OPEC discovered it has a rival emerging in a core Oil market.

Officials of the U.S. shale bankers were present this week in Vienna, when OPEC held a meeting. After what happened, OPEC is preparing a trip for its officials. Aiming to visit Texas in order to check if it is possible for two industries to co-exist. Because if some new co-existing spirit is suffocated, the major future fights are near.

“We have to coexist,” said Khalid al-Falih,


Output Cuts

OPEC now realizes that agreed supply cuts and higher prices only make it easier for the U.S. shale industry to deliver higher profit. While it is aware that shale industry has  found ways of slashing costs. It happened three years ago, when Saudi Arabia ”turned up the taps”.

Permian Basin – the largest U.S. oilfield. Parsley Energy Inc, Diamondback Energy Inc, and others are pumping at the highest rate in years. Now taking advantage of new technology, low costs and steady oil prices to harvest profits at OPEC’s cost.

OPEC’s latest idea is to make certain co-agreements, and hold the prices below $60 per barrel. Meanwhile it is aware of the U.S. shale power, but aims to hinder its growth.

“All shale companies in the U.S. are small companies.” (Noureddine Boutarfa)

“The reality is that at $50 to $60 a barrel, (the U.S. oil industry) can’t break beyond 10 million barrels per day.”

“For all OPEC members, $55 (per barrel) and a maximum of $60 is the goal at this stage.” said Iran’s oil minister.

“So is that price level not high enough to encourage too much shale? It seems it is good for both.”

“We had a discussion on (shale) and how much that has an impact,” said Ecuador Oil Minister Carlos Pérez.

“But we have no control over what the U.S. does and it’s up to them to decide to continue or not.”

OPEC delegates asked Mark Papa, chief executive of Permian oil, to say more about the shale’s potential. He diplomatically did not open the cards.

“In terms of the threat, we still don’t know how much (U.S. shale) will be producing in the near future.” Nelson Martinez, Venezuela’s oil minister said after the talk. (Reuters)


Opinions On Shale

UAE Energy Minister Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazroui, admittedhe didn’t believe U.S. oil production would rise by 1 million bpd next year.

Some of OPEC’s customers are indeed content to see an alternative for their Oil sources. For example India, the world’s third-largest oil consumer, currently said it is looking to the United States for greater supply.

“The new normal has to be accepted.” Dharmendra Pradhan, India’s energy minister said this week at the OPEC meeting.

OPEC will meet again in November. Aiming to reconsider output policy and check if everything was going as planned. While most in the group now seem to believe that shale has to be accommodated, there are still those in OPEC who think another fight is close.



Short Overview of main Weekly deals & economic events

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United States

Nasdaq and S&P 500 overcame the last week’s losses. They were at the record levels on Friday’s closing, observing the period of two weeks. Strongly supported by the surge in tech stocks, as well as the political unrest which is taking place in U.S. these days.


OPEC & Oil

OPEC and non-OPEC countries have made a deal to extend production cuts for a period of nine months, until March. The deal was made on Thursday. The idea of extending the glut came after the output cuts agreed in November last year failed to rein in the glut in supply. Which has pressured oil prices for nearly three years.

Most of the market participants were expecting deeper cuts. So when the meeting started, prices sharply fell right away, which did not leave the traders impressed. The expectations on Cartel were a bit firmer & OPEC was expected to announce deeper cuts.

However, in order to rebalance the market, OPEC must take wise further steps. Also, observing it relations with with non-member countries, they should become closer.


Base Metals


Firstly, copper prices on LME closed the day on Friday May 26 below their previous closing prices. They have fallen back from three-week highs earlier.

Three-month copper closed the day at $5,657 per tonne. Coming from its previous closing price of $5,724.

Secondly, copper prices rose earlier on news of the escalating 2 month long strike at the Grasberg mine – the world’s second largest for copper. Where strikes are set to roll into a second month over June. But prices fell back again by the close.

Thirdly, aluminium prices traded loosely flat throughout the day. They dipped at the close to $1,951 per tonne after closing the day on Thursday at $1,960. Aluminium stocks saw a 31,975-tonne injection in South Korea on Friday. Such a move could see prices trade lower, despite the spectre of Chinese cuts hanging over the market.

“While questions remain around the efficacy of proposed Chinese capacity cuts, with the bears pointing to high semi exports as signs that production has actually increased, there is no questioning the buy momentum,” (Alastair Munro)

At friday’s close, the three-month prices of base metals were:
Nickel closed the day at $9,080 per tonne, from its previous closing price of $9,040. Zinc closed at $2,640 per tonne, up from $2,633. Lead closed the day higher at $2,122 per tonne, from $2,084. Tin prices closed at $20,425 per tonne, from $20,400 in Thursday.


Brazil’s Vale plans to diversify


Fabio Schvartsman, CEO of Vale SA, said that world’s largest iron ore miner plans to resume growth with diversification. And some acquisitions also.

Reporters and market analysts explained that Friday said Schvartsman means to avoid keeping “all eggs in one basket.” Speaking about the firm’s strong reliance on iron ore.

The company is doing a detailed analysis to decide on which operations to expand. For example, its nickel business is not gaining enough profit returns.

Schvartsman has set up working groups in Company, to find out the risks and returns which every of these units gain. The first assessment is to happen in 60 days.

For advises on cost-cutting efforts, Vale has also found a solution. It hired Brazilian consultancy firm Falconi to advise them and help them deal with cost-reduction.


China’s Crude Oil Imports (Current & Forecasts)


Top 5 things in Today’s Market:

  1. Upward revision in U.S. growth expected, eyes on durable goods
  2. Pound under pressure on election jitters
  3. Oil recovers slightly after brutal OPEC induced sell off
  4. Japanese CPI increases for 4th straight month; China eyes yuan fixing
  5. Global stocks mixed ahead of U.S. holiday weekend

For further info on these subjects:


After OPEC has brought the decision on extending the output cuts, China’s refiners now have to slow their purchases of oil, for the next 2 months.

China is the world’s top Oil buyer. Interesting fact is that country’s appetite for crude oil fell. Leveling the 8.4 million bpd in April. While in March it reached the top of 9.2 bpd. This will also impact the country’s demand.

Shandong’s individual and independent refiners are facing pressure to cut their production because profit margins are now lower. This is happening due to Beijing’s custody. Beijing aims to refresh taxes and shifting policies, and balance the country’s economy this way.

Some of the refiners have even begun the seasonal work.


State Oil majors

China’s state Oil majors plan to put up new refining capacities till the end of this year. This way they aim to replace some import losses.

However, the lower country’s appetite and the demand which is slightly losing its upward momentum lead to a certain conclusion: China’s oil market is possibly slowing the movement.  

“There will be more shutdowns in June, July and possibly August. It’s seasonal but also because the market is not doing well and stocks are plentiful.” (Said manager of one Independent refining company.)

These independent refiners participate in China’s crude demand with 12 %. Since 2015, when they won the rights to import oil – they have been enjoying high profits. Doing so by selling diesel and gasoline throughout Asia. And at the same time expanding domestic sales in unique competition with state firms.

In January this year, Beijing put a ban on all the independents possibilities to export the fuel. This way it was openly  favoring the big state-owned refiners. And it squeezed margins for independents. Beijing  tensed custody on tax practices.

“Some refineries had rushed to buy crude in the first quarter, worried that they could be penalized for slow use of import permits.”

“There were some over-purchases of crude earlier as (plants) were unsure of the quota policy. Now inventories are high everywhere.” (Wang)


Further Imports

“Policy headwinds, domestic competition from SOEs (state-owned enterprises) and insufficient storage infrastructure at major port cities will cap imports.”

Observing the inventories in Shandong, diesel’s were pretty high compared to gasoline. Wang (official of one independent refinery) has said that his plant has plans to shut the 90,000 bpd crude units. All of that through July, aiming to improve the current situation.



China’s state oil companies plan to strengthen the crude oil imports from August onward. Doing so by activating new refineries in Yunnan and Huizhou with combined capacity of 460,000 bpd.

There are some other Country’s projects which will stimulate the crude oil imports in middle-term.

Towards April and May, Beijing has gave permissions for 6 independent refiners to import crude oil. Total permits were around about 280,000 bpd. Some of these approvals are still preliminary, but worth mentioning is that they had the influence over market.

Harry Liu, an analyst at consultancy IHS Markit, estimated China’s total imports have fallen to around 8 million bpd at present, but could climb back to around 8.5 million bpd from around August. (Reuters)

“CNPC and CNOOC will contribute the bulk of the increases in refinery runs later this year. Teapots’ contribution will be smaller as the environment for them to grow has got much tougher this year.” Liu said.


Oil price drops; Base Metals down

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Main economic events in Market Today:

  • U.S. Core Durable Goods Orders (MoM)(Apr) fell to actual -0.2% while forecast was 0.4%
  • U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) QoQ fell to actual 0.7% while forecast was 1.2%
  • U.S. GDP Price Index QoQ rose to actual 2.2% while forecast was 2.0%
  • U.S. Michigan Consumer Expectations came to actual 88.1 while the forecast was 87.0
  • European Central Bank Coeure Speaks


Base metals were mostly lower during Asian morning trade today. The Oil price impacted even the base metals movement, and it put a cap on copper price.

“On Thursday, base metals prices had rallied then dropped after the OPEC [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] announcement and after the dollar strengthened. LME copper prices were supported by issues at Grasberg but gains were checked by concerns over Chinese demand.” (Mailyard Futures, China)
SHFE copper prices will probably continue fluctuating around 46,000 yuan per tonne.

OPEC countries agreed on May 25th about extending the output cuts. However, this had a huge fast impact on Oil prices in negative way. The hedge funds reacted right away, and the global oil price went lower than predicted.
“Since May 15, when the Saudis and Russians announced their intention to extend the cuts for nine months rather than six, prices gained more than $2 in anticipation of an agreement today. Now, prices have roughly returned to May 15 levels,” SG added.

The Brent crude oil price dipped as low as $51 per barrel on Thursday, the lowest since May 15.

Grasberg copper mine strike

Freeport McMoRan Inc said Thursday that mining and milling rates at its Grasberg mine are affected by the extended strike. Also by a “large number” of approximately 4,000 absentee workers. Who were deemed to have resigned.

Increasing labor tension is a further disruption for Freeport. Involved in a long dispute with Indonesia over rights to the giant mine, which has cost both sides hundreds of millions of dollars.

Copper prices leveled three-week highs yesterday.  Concerns about extended disruptions at Grasberg triggered these movements.

“As a result, a large number of these workers were deemed to have resigned, consistent with agreed industrial relations guidelines and prevailing law…”

”When asked to comment, the Union officials were not available.” (Reuters)

The most of Freeport’s 30,000-strong Indonesian workforce is “productively and safely” working.

On May 15, Freeport said the strike is not legal and “voluntary resignation is the consequence” for workers ignoring demands to return to work. The workers who were absent for five consecutive days. (Reuters)

Workers now considered “resigned” are in addition to an estimated 2,000-3,000 workers Freeport placed on absence as of mid-April. At that time, approximately 10 percent of its 32,000 member workforce was “demobilized” under aims to cut the costs

The SHFE September nickel contract fell down for 700 yuan or 0.9% to 75,220 yuan per tonne. It happened  due to concerns over escalating nickel ore exports from the Philippines and Indonesia. And slower demand from the Chinese stainless steel sector.


Other base metals lower

Firstly,  July aluminium contract fell 10 yuan or 0.1% to 14,080 yuan per tonne. Secondly, The SHFE July zinc price slipped 40 yuan or 0.2% to 22,205 yuan per tonne.  Following, the SHFE July lead price increased 50 yuan or 0.3% to 15,980 yuan per tonne.

Finishing, the SHFE September tin price decreased 510 yuan or 0.3% to 145,490 yuan per tonne.