Aluminium and nickel climb on Russian supply angst

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LONDON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Aluminium and nickel prices climbed towards multi-year highs on Monday on escalating fears that reduced supplies from Russia would exacerbate existing shortages of both industrial metals.

A Russian invasion of Ukraine could mean sanctions against Russian companies such as Norilsk Nickel (GMKN.MM), which supplies about 10% of the world's nickel, and Rusal , which accounts for about 5% of global aluminium supply. read more

Russia has repeatedly denied it is preparing to invade Ukraine.

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Benchmark aluminium on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was up 2.4% at $3,212 a tonne by 1702 GMT, retreating from an earlier high of $3,241 after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged President Vladimir Putin to allow more time for diplomacy on the Ukraine crisis. read more

"There's a risk of sanctions on Russia; people are trying to stock up on aluminium and nickel," one metals trader said.

Aluminium prices hit $3,333 a tonne last week, close to the record high of $3,380.15 hit in July 2008.

Nickel gained 0.6% to $23,190 a tonne, also ceding some early gains. It touched $24,435 a tonne in January for its highest since August 2011.

STOCKS: Shortages can be seen in dwindling inventories in LME-registered warehouses.

Aluminium stocks at 868,950 tonnes have more than halved since March last year. Cancelled warrants -- metal earmarked for delivery -- at 30% suggest THAT more aluminium will be delivered out over coming days and weeks.

Nickel inventories at 84,894 tonnes have dropped by 67% since April last year, while cancelled warrants stand at 50%.

SPREADS: Worries about supplies on the LME market have seen cash aluminium and nickel trade at a premium over the three-month contracts for some time.

SHANGHAI: Norilsk Nickel's cathode is deliverable against the nickel contract traded on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE). The contract , too, has rallied in recent days.

DOLLAR: Prices of copper used by investors as a gauge of economic health was up 0.5% at $9,908 a tonne.

Worries about demand in top consumer China and a stronger U.S. currency are weighing on copper. A stronger dollar makes metals priced in the currency more expensive for buyers with other currencies.

OTHER METALS: Zinc slipped 1.2% to $3,581 a tonne, lead rose 0.5% to $2,290 and tin was flat at $43,549.

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Reporting by Pratima Desai Editing by Kirsten Donovan and David Goodman

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