(MB) Base metals prices on the Shanghai Futures Exchange are off to a mixed start this week, with nickel prices leading on the upside with a gain of 1%, while zinc, copper and lead prices are little changed and tin and aluminium prices are down by 0.5% and 0.9% respectively. Firm demand from China’s stainless steel sector is lending support to nickel prices this morning, Monday February 12, with the most-traded SHFE May nickel contract trading at 99,800 yuan ($15,854) per tonne as of 10.00 am Shanghai time, up by 1,030 yuan per tonne compared with last Friday’s close. “Demand from the stainless steel sector remains strong; world stainless steel melting production increased 7.4% year on year in January-September 2017, the latest figures from the International Stainless Steel Forum show,” Metal Bulletin analyst James Moore said. Tightened availability of nickel stocks is also underpinning prices. “Nickel stocks in Shanghai-bonded warehouses decreased to only 19,000-24,000 tonnes at the end of January because recent tax changes limited inflow and triggered a surge of material delivered into the domestic market,” Moore added. Metal Bulletin’s assessment of nickel stocks in Shanghai-bonded warehouses decreased to 19,000-24,000 tonnes on January 31, down 30.6% from 28,000-34,000 tonnes on January 3 and 67.9% lower on an annual basis.