Japan's Sumitomo Metal says global nickel deficit to widen this year

    TOKYO, June 14 (Reuters) - Sumitomo Metal Mining,
Japan's biggest nickel smelter, expects a global nickel market
deficit to widen to 88,000 tonnes this year, from 72,000 tonnes
last year, amid solid demand for stainless steel and batteries,
an official said on Thursday. 
    Global demand for nickel is seen increasing by 7.3 percent
in 2018 from last year to 2.298 million tonnes, while supply
rises 6.8 percent to 2.210 million tonnes, the company said. 
    "We expect higher demand for stainless steel and automotive
batteries," Masanori Ohyama, general manager of Sumitomo Metal
Mining's nickel sales and raw materials department, told
    Electric vehicle batteries are a new source of demand for
nickel. Sumitomo Metal Mining, which also makes materials for
electronic parts, supplies cathode materials for Panasonic
Corp's lithium ion batteries that are used in Tesla
Inc's electric vehicles. 
    "An increase in nickel supply will come mainly from nickel
pig iron output in China and Indonesia," Ohyama said, predicting
tightness in higher-quality nickel to continue this year. 
    Japan's demand for nickel is projected to rise 7.0 percent
to 184,200 tonnes, while supply is forecast to climb 4.1 percent
to 194,900 tonnes, resulting in a surplus of 10,700 tonnes,
Sumitomo Metal Mining said. 
    The company's forecast for the global nickel market is
detailed below (in 1,000 tonnes):
            Refined     Refined    Market
             supply      demand   balance
    2016      2,049       2,079       -30
    2017      2,070       2,142       -72
    2018      2,210       2,298       -88

 (Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Tom Hogue)