Why this base metal is weathering the rout

Upside ahead for nickel: Pro

Amid a brutal rout in base metals this year, one commodity is standing out from the crowd and has even further to run this year, analysts told CNBC.

Prices of nickel, a metal used in the production of stainless steel, have been soaring in recent months, up roughly 17 percent year to date and trading at $16,300 per metric ton on Thursday.

(Read more: Indonesia bans mineral ore exports)

Its peers however, including copper, iron ore, aluminum and zinc, have been tanking alongside. Copper, for example, has lost around 12 percent year to date, as worries over the use of copper in Chinese trade financing deals panicked investors.

"It's [nickel] been a little bit of a slow burner though obviously it's one of the only commodities that's up on the year," said Daniel Hynes, commodities strategist at Hynes Commodities. "The whole issue surrounding the Indonesian ban on raw materials is at the crux of this."

Indonesia - the world's largest miner of nickel - imposed an export ban on mineral ores in January, in an effort to boost profits at home as miners are forced to process their ore domestically before exporting it. The ban specifically targeted the nickel and bauxite industries and will affect more than $2 billion in annual shipments.

(Read more: Are Dr Copper's days numbered?)

Worker on staircase leading to processing platform at nickel refinery
Gillianne Tedder | Photolibrary | Getty Images

But according to Hynes, the full effect of the export ban has yet to be felt, meaning nickel prices could run up further.

"At the moment, we're not seeing the real impact of that being played out in China," as Chinese steel makers still have high inventories, he said.

"But inventories are starting to fall in China, and we expect that to really kick in the second quarter into the second half. That's when we expect the nickel price to really react to the upside," he added.

He sees nickel prices reaching $17,000 a metric ton in three months and $18,000 by year end.

(Read more: Will gold see double-digit declines this year?)

Mike Harrowell, senior resources research analyst at BBY, told CNBC he saw nickel prices climbing to around $9.50 a pound ($19,000 per metric ton) by year end, citing the tensions in Russia and developments in the global steel industry, on top of Indonesia's export ban on mineral ores as key drivers.

In the past week, the European Union stepped up sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea, and warns it would move to impose trade and economic measures if Russia moves beyond Crimea into southern and eastern Ukraine.

"Russia represents roughly 28 percent of global nickel mine supply," Harrowell said, adding that he believed the Russians would get around any sanctions.

In addition, the global steel industry will see a strong uptick in demand this year, which is seen as a boon for nickel, said Harrowell.

The steel industry is reaching the end of three years of destocking (a process of reducing inventory), he said, while demand for steel from countries outside of China is improving. Furthermore, Harrowell said he expects economic growth in China to come in at healthy levels this year, despite worries of a slowdown.

(Read more: Copper's 'fall out of bed' underscores China woes)

"We are seeing talk of shrinking lead times for stainless makers in Europe, but Chinese steel makers are still talking of depressed demand mode, but I expect this to change soon," he said.

Shrinking lead times - which are the time difference between delivery and order - are often an indication of renewed demand, he added.

However, David Lennox, a mining analyst at Fat Prophets, had a much less bullish forecast for nickel and sees prices ending the year at $6.50-6.55 a pound or $14,330-14,440 a metric ton.

"Indonesia is a known story and factored in. It is only the potential for escalation of sanctions against Russian nickel exports that has pushed the price higher," he said.

"We are happy with the dynamics in the stainless steel market at the moment, which suggest the nickel price will be supported but not driven higher. If no economic sanctions are brought against Russia during the year, the price will not get to $18,000 per metric ton by year end. We would expect to see the price move back toward the mid $14,000 per metric ton," he added.

By CNBC's Katie Holliday: Follow her on Twitter @hollidaykatie