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METALS-Nickel dips as market rethinks impact of Indonesia ban

Eric Onstad
Wednesday, 15 Jan 2014 | 6:13 AM ET

* Chinese speed up plans to build Indonesian refineries

* World Bank raises forecast for global growth

* Japan's PPC, BHP fail to reach 2014 copper TC/RC term deal

(Adds details, quotes; previous SYDNEY)

LONDON, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Nickel slipped on Wednesday from a three-week high touched in the previous session as investors became cautious about the possible impact on supply from an Indonesian ban on exports of unprocessed ore.

A stronger dollar and technical factors also weighed on the base metals markets, which saw declines across the board.

Three-month nickel on the London Metal Exchange was down 0.03 percent at $14,335 a tonne at 1043 GMT after falling to a session low of $14,224.

Nickel has surged more than 7 percent since Thursday on the back of the Indonesian ban, which came into force at the weekend.

"I think there's a realisation that things got a bit overcooked in the last few days," analyst Robin Bhar at Societe Generale said.

"Yes, there is an impact but probably not so much this year, because China has got stockpiles of ore. It imported huge amounts from Indonesia last year."

Consistent overproduction will keep the nickel market in a surplus this year, but it may slip into a deficit if the ban is not eased, Bhar added.

Industry sources said Chinese firms were speeding up plans to build refineries in Indonesia to produce nickel pig iron, a substitute for higher grade refined nickel in stainless steel, after the move by Jakarta to force miners to build local processing plants.

Much of the recent rise in nickel was driven by short-covering by CTAs (commodity trading advisors), but this has largely run its course, Bhar added.

"These things always go higher than you think they will. I had a target of $14,500, so there's no reason that perhaps we couldn't touch $14,800 or $15,000, but that's pretty much the upside this thing would warrant."

COPPER DEMAND DOWN

Copper also edged down as demand eased ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, but prices were buttressed by economic optimism after the World Bank raised its forecast for global growth.

Copper prices have been stuck in a rut so far in 2014, capped by expectations that supply will climb as the year gets underway but underpinned by a shortfall of available metal in physical markets.

LME copper slipped 0.04 percent to $7,276.75 a tonne after giving up 0.7 percent on Tuesday.

"Definitely there is less demand for copper at the moment. Because of seasonal reasons, demand for all commodities is going to weaken, which will be the case until early February," said analyst Wan Ling at metals consultancy CRU in Beijing.

China is the world's top copper consumer, accounting for around 40 percent of global refined demand. Its Lunar New Year holidays kick off on Jan. 31.

The most-traded March copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange eased 0.4 percent to end the second session at 51,450 yuan ($8,500) a tonne.

Metals across the market were pressured by a strengthening of the dollar, which makes commodities priced in the U.S. currency more expensive to buyers outside the United States.

Some players closed their positions after recent gains.

"Nickel is up $1,000 in two days, lead has rallied $100 and zinc was up $90. Last night there was no (buying) on the close, so anyone that can take a quick buck is doing it," one trader in Singapore said.

Pan Pacific Copper, Japan's biggest smelter, said on Wednesday it would not sign a long-term contract for copper processing fees with global miner BHP Billiton in 2014, after the two sides could not agree on terms.

Cash copper remained at a premium against the benchmark, signalling a shortfall of available supply, although the differential eased by more than $10 on Tuesday to $24.75 from 19-month peaks hit the day before.

PRICES

Three month LME copper

Most active ShFE copper

Three month LME aluminium

Most active ShFE aluminium

Three month LME zinc

Most active ShFE zinc

Three month LME lead

Most active ShFE lead

Three month LME nickel

Three month LME tin

($1 = 6.0412 Chinese yuan)

(Additional reporting by Melanie Burton; editing by Jane Baird)