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Cobalt Rises to 1-Year High on Medical to Battery Demand

Cobalt prices rose to a one-year high in London on signs that demand from the medical to battery industries is picking up.

Inventories of the metal have dropped 4.4 percent since June 18 to 546 metric tons, according to data from the London Metal Exchange. Producers sold more metal than usual in the second quarter because they expected prices to fall, forcing consumers to turn to the spot market for material now, said Stephen English, sales manager at SFP Metals (U.K.) Ltd., London-based specialists in cobalt. Prices climbed 3.3 percent this month, erasing the 2.8 percent second quarter decline.

“Producers sold quite a lot of material in June, probably thinking the price would erode in July and August as the summer months approached and probably got themselves into an oversold situation,” English said. “We have seen a pick-up in demand. Aerospace is good, medical is good, power generation is good. Batteries are good.”

Cobalt for immediate delivery jumped 3.8 percent to $31,500 a ton on the LME, the highest since July 2, 2013. Prices climbed 8.8 percent this year after gaining 14 percent last year.

Cobalt stockpiles represent less than 1 percent of annual demand of about 85,000 tons a year, English said. Nickel stockpiles are 304,536 tons, or about 16 percent of annual demand of 1.89 million tons, according to Barclays Plc data.

Cobalt is used in lithium ion batteries for mobile phones and tablets, magnets, body replacement parts and nickel-based super alloys, English said.

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