Supply squeeze pushes nickel up 5% to 11-year high

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LONDON, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Nickel prices on Wednesday shot to their highest since 2011 as a supply shortage forced traders to pay huge premiums to get their hands on metal.

Benchmark nickel on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was up 5% at $23,170 a tonne at 1707 GMT after reaching $23,220. It was heading for its biggest one-day gain since October.

Used in stainless steel and for batteries for electric vehicles, nickel is up around 11% this year after rising 25% in 2021 and 18% in 2020.

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With exchange stockpiles falling, the tom/next and cash-to-three-month spreads surged to their highest in more than 10 years this week, prompting the LME to say it was monitoring the market. Premiums eased on Wednesday. ,

"We're bullish for nickel," said Sucden analyst Geordie Wilkes. "We could see some softness in the near term but that's nothing to worry about when you look at the fundamentals."

INVENTORIES: Stocks in LME-registered warehouses have fallen to 94,830 tonnes from more than 260,000 tonnes in April. Inventories in Shanghai Futures Exchange warehouses, at 4,711 tonnes, are near record lows. ,

COLUMN: The nickel market is experiencing a severe squeeze, writes Reuters columnist Andy Home. read more

CHINA: The central bank of China, the biggest metals consumer, will roll out more policy measures to stabilise the economy, vice governor Liu Guoqiang said. read more

ALUMINIUM: LME aluminium was up 0.7% at $3,046.50 a tonne after reaching $3,053, the highest since Oct 21. Prices are up 8% percent this year after rising 42% in 2021.

Higher power prices have forced smelters to cut output, tightening the market.

"The past three months saw a ~800kt/y of European smelting capacity curtailed, with up to 1.2Mt/y of smelting capacity at risk over the next few months," said analysts at Citi.

"We are very bullish aluminium and copper over the medium term," they said.

TIN: LME tin was up 1.5% at $42,925 a tonne after touching an all-time high of $43,000. Prices are up around 10% this year after rising 92% in 2021.

Indonesia, the second biggest producer, has yet to issue any permits to export tin in 2022 via ICDX, one of its commodity exchanges, a bourse official said.

OTHER METALS: LME copper was up 1.6% at $9,831.50 a tonne, zinc was 0.5% higher at $3,585 and lead rose 1.7% to $2,362.

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Reporting by Peter Hobson, Editing by Louise Heavens, Kirsten Donovan Additional reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru

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