This time last year, nickel market participants were looking forward to finding out whether Indonesia's long-awaited ban on unprocessed ore exports would come into effect as planned on January 1, 2014. As those who've kept abreast with developments in the space are aware, the answer turned out to be "yes." Despite speculation that the country might not go through with the ban or might start by implementing a tamer "phased ban," the full version was put in place at the start of the new year. The immediate result was an uptick in the nickel price, along with share price increases for many nickel-focused companies outside Indonesia. The metal's price continued to rise for almost the entire first half of the year — in March, The Wall Street Journal claimed nickel had entered a bull market, and in April, the metal claimed the title of "best-performing commodity."
Spot nickel price, December 2013 to December 2014.
However, as the chart above shows, nickel's fortune began to sour toward the end of the summer. A Financial Times article published at that time identifies concerns about rising stockpiles of the metal and fear that the Indonesian ban would be softened as the culprits for the price decline — increased nickel output from the Philippines, which has raced to try to fill the gap left by Indonesia, and lower demand from China also didn't help. In October, those concerns were compounded by rumors that a nickel surplus might be on the way. Since then, the nickel price has started to pick up again, though it's still fairly far off from the high it hit earlier in the year. Most recently, Kitco pegged its spot price as US$6.9539 per pound, while on the LME it was selling for US$15,625 per tonne.