(Bloomberg) — The London Metal Exchange suspended trading in its nickel market after an unprecedented price spike left brokers struggling to pay margin calls against unprofitable short positions, in a massive squeeze that has embroiled the largest nickel producer as well as a major Chinese bank.
Nickel, used in stainless steel and electric-vehicle batteries, surged as much as 250% in two days to trade briefly above $100,000 a ton early Tuesday. The frenzied move — the largest-ever on the LME — came as investors and industrial users who had sold the metal scrambled to buy the contracts back after prices initially rallied on concerns about supplies from Russia, while brokers rushed to collect margin payments to cover their deeply unprofitable positions.
The debacle will raise memories of the LME’s darkest period, the “Tin Crisis” of 1985, which saw the exchange suspend tin trading for four years and pushed many brokers out of business. That was driven by the collapse of the International Tin Council, a body backed by 22 governments that collapsed when it could no longer keep propping up the tin price.
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