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FEB. 27: VALE. The world’s top iron ore producer is expected to report a 44-per-cent drop in fourth-quarter net income, to $1.09-billion (U.S.). It would be the smallest quarterly profit at the Rio de Janeiro-based group in nearly three years. In photo: A worker uses the tapping process to separate nickel ore from other elements at the nickel processing plant owned by PT Vale Indonesia in Sorowako, Indonesia.YUSUF AHMAD/Reuters

Move over gold and copper. It's time for nickel to get a little attention.

While the media focus on the two traditional commodities, nickel has quietly been making a move. To start the week, it was the only commodity with a positive year-to-date return on a U.S. dollar basis, according to RBC Dominion Securities, and last week nickel miners saw their stocks jump 7.9 per cent.

Better yet, nickel miners' discounts to their net asset values are more or less negligible, whereas aluminum miners are trading at a 20 per cent discount to NAV, copper miners at a 25 per cent discount, and an 18 per cent discount for diversified miners.

It wasn't always this way. Last year nickel prices dropped about 9 per cent, the most of any of the six main metals that trade on the London Metal Exchange. On top of that, warehouses built up major inventories, which is never good for a metal's price.

But lately the number of orders to take metal from these warehouses has increased. As Bloomberg noted, that's largely been because of a recent jump in financing transactions that are helping to absorb the nickel glut.

There's also better fundamental demand, particularly out of China, on the back of stronger production of stainless steel. (As much as we hoped, scrapping the penny didn't have much of an effect on the global market. Shucks.)

So far no one's expecting much of a long-term nickel run -- especially not with the renewed uncertainty over the euro zone. But this serves as a reminder to broaden your commodity horizons, because lead and zinc are catching peoples' eyes, too.

(Tim Kiladze is a Globe and Mail Reporter.)

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