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Nornickel expects mild deficit of palladium, surplus of platinum and nickel in 2022 - report

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(Kitco News) - In its recent research report released yesterday, Nornickel, the world's largest producer of palladium and high-grade nickel, said that the platinum group metals (PGM) market of early 2022 was again stunned by black swan events, such as geopolitical tensions and economic sanctions that have caused a lot of uncertainties.

Nornickel added that the future stability of supply from Russia and the pace of recovery of the automotive sector — a major consumer of PGMs — are unclear.

"Moreover, COVID-19, the main supply chain disruptor of recent years, is still there and still hits unexpectedly, as seen just recently in China. This, together with persisting bottlenecks in logistics, will likely delay chip supply recovery until 2023 at the very least, undermining car production around the world," the authors of the report said.

The company expects that global palladium demand to rise by 3% to 10.3 million ounces in 2022 mainly on the back of a partial automotive sector recovery from the low base of 2021. Metal supply will grow slightly as well, predominantly due to recovering after the 2021 accidents production at Nornickel's assets.

As a result, it is expected that palladium market will be close to balance this year with the deficit of 0.1 million ounces.

The company pointed out that risks associated with palladium supply from Russia are adding to the uncertainty for consumers and contributing to the rising price volatility.

However, Nornickel said it confirms its production guidance for 2022 and continues to deliver metals according to its contract obligations despite logistic obstacles associated with the limited availability of international flights.

In 2023, Nornickel expects that palladium market to stay in balance, as the automotive demand recovery to be mostly offset by rise in secondary supply.

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As for platinum, the company maintains that the 2022 platinum market surplus is expected at around 0.9 million ounces. In 2023, the surplus is seen shrinking to 0.6 million ounces mostly due to the automotive sector recovery.

"We expect the demand for platinum from the automakers to stagnate this year as the global auto sector partial recovery will be offset by lower consumption in China, where metal use in car manufacturing will decline in 2022 on the back of PGM loading optimization caused by thrifting after strong loadings growth in 2021 driven by the introduction of the China VI heavy-duty regulation," Nornickel noted.

According to the report, in Nornickel's base case scenario, it is expected that the 2022 primary nickel demand growth to slow down to +11% at 3.17 million tonnes as opposed to the 2021 increase of 17%, reflecting the current price environment, high inflation across major economies and uncertain macroeconomic outlook.

The 2022 nickel market is currently expected to be in a mild surplus of around 40,000 tonnes and mostly in low-grade nickel, Nornickel said.

"However, the unprecedented price volatility, new COVID-19 lockdowns, growing inflationary pressure and potential supply disruptions amid extremely tight nickel inventories may impact the 2022 forecast significantly," the report found.

In 2023, the company expects that the market surplus to widen to around 100,000 tonnes, predominantly in low-grade nickel, on the back of the new nickel pig iron capacities in Indonesia, coupled with the growing production of nickel chemicals and a further growth of Class 1 nickel and ferronickel output.

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