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Global copper smelting eases nickel pig iron jumps

Global copper smelting eases nickel pig iron jumps

Global copper smelting activity eases while nickel pig iron jumps in June. This is according to data from satellite surveillance of copper plants.

Satellite service SAVANT and broker Marex said in a joint statement that this is after a rebound a month earlier as Chinese plants closed for maintenance. They were now monitoring nickel smelters, which showed weak refined nickel production, but a jump in nickel pig iron (NPI) activity. NPI is a lower-nickel-content substitute for refined nickel.

“In copper, the narrative remains one of a slow march towards normality with material divergences at a regional level. The Chinese maintenance period appears to be taking place as scheduled this year but the very strong levels of NPI activity in China are striking,” said Guy Wolf, global head of analytics at Marex, which helped to develop SAVANT.

SAVANT’s dispersion

Earth-i, which specialises in geospatial data, launched its SAVANT service late last year, tracking more than 100 copper smelters representing about 90% of global production. It sells data to fund managers, traders and miners and publishes a free monthly index of global copper smelter activity. Its global copper dispersion index fell to an average of 48.0 in June from 49.4 a month earlier.

Under SAVANT’s dispersion index, 50 points indicate smelters are operating at the average level of the last 12 months. It also has a second index showing the percentage of active smelters. In nickel, June is usually a seasonally strong month, but the dispersion index for refined nickel was 49.8, the lowest reading for June over the past five years. For NPI, however, the activity index jumped to 62.3 from 47.7.

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