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Wood is on fire and nickel shines

12/17/2020 | 09:47am

Let's leave aside the stars of raw materials such as oil, gold or copper, and focus today on two commodities that are often off the radar, but which have nevertheless shone particularly brightly this year - lumber and nickel.

Wood is on fire. It's good news for the North American lumber industry. Lumber prices have indeed skyrocketed, another unsuspected effect linked to the health crisis.

Containment measures have prompted many American households to renovate their homes, or to think big about their homes. Sales of new/old homes and housing starts reflect this underlying trend, accelerated by social distancing and remote working. On the other hand, supply has remained quite timid, with the slowdown in logging sites and the occasional closure of some sawmills in Canada, creating a real boom in lumber prices, which have risen by... 100% since January 1 to $819 .

New Home Sales in the United States : source - Forex Factory

We already knew the big winners of the crisis with techno and health. But let's not forget the Canadian heavyweights of silviculture, whose stock market prices have jumped from 47% to 86% since the beginning of the year - West Fraser Timber, Norbord, Interfor Corporation, Canfor Corporation.

Nickel should also be on the list of 2020 top performers.  Commenting on nickel's journey often involves mentioning Indonesia, since the country is the leading producer of nickel. Indonesia had shaken the market by banning the export of nickel ore, a political but above all strategic decision to move up the value chain and make Indonesia one of the largest manufacturers of semi-finished products.

The country with thousands of islands is back in the spotlight and is causing strong tension on nickel prices, but not for the same reasons. Demonstrations, sometimes violent, paralyzed part of the national production, creating concerns about global supply.  Hundreds of workers demanded more decent wages, calls that led to real riots among some Indonesian producers. In the absence of wages, the price of nickel skyrocketed to $17,650 per metric ton. Some producers are taking advantage of the situation, such as the French company Eramet, whose share price has been rebounding since November 1.

Nickel's performance this year - source: LME

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