METALS-Nickel prices soar to highest since 2012

    (Updates prices)
    LONDON, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Nickel prices hit their highest
in nearly 10 years on Tuesday as dwindling global inventories
pointed to solid demand while an outage at the London Metal
Exchange (LME) hit trading.
    The overnight outage at the world's largest marketplace for
industrial metals lasted five hours and hampered activity
because some trades did not go through, traders said.

    Prices for nickel on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE)
moved higher while the LME's electronic system was down, and the
underlying price moved quickly to catch up with the move on
ShFE, a trader said.
    Prices for stainless steel, where most nickel supply is
used, jumped as producers cut production to carry out
maintenance. Output is also expected to be curbed by Spring
Festival holidays and the Beijing Winter Olympics because
industries have been asked to lower output during the Games.

    Stainless steel mills, mostly in China, account for about
two thirds of global nickel consumption.
    At the same time, demand for nickel from a surge in electric
vehicle sales has bouyed the market, with major car producers
ramping up output and sales.
    Benchmark three-month nickel         on the LME was up 5% at
$21,430 a tonne by 1720 GMT, its loftiest since touching $21,850
in February 2012.

    INVENTORIES: On-warrant nickel stocks available to the
market were at their lowest since December 2019 at 48,846
tonnes. SPREADS: Worries over supply have pushed up the premium of
LME cash nickel over the three-month contract to $130 a tonne
from $47 a tonne in mid-December. Nickel stocks in Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) warehouses
are close to record lows at 4,859 tonnes, down from about 16,000
tonnes a year ago. OTHER METALS: LME copper         rose 1.8% to $9,734 a
tonne, aluminium         gained 1.5% to $2,977, zinc
added 2.2% to $3,554, lead         was up 1.2% at $2,305 and tin
        advanced 2% to $40,700.

 (Reporting by Zandi Shabalala, Eileen Soreng and Pratima Desai
Editing by David Goodman

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