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Getting Closer To A Bottom In Uranium

|Includes:CCJ, Global X Uranium ETF (URA), UUUU

Low prices are the cure for low prices:

But while market watchers wait in the aisles for the final catalysts in this inevitable bull market, the uranium price is weighing heavily on producers, one of which is Paladin Energy (ASX:PDN). The company capped off the first Friday in February with the announcement that it is calling a halt to production at the Kayelekera mine in Malawi.

Paladin's CEO, John Borshoff, said in a statement that "[t]he Kayelekera Mine has performed exceptionally well technically, with production levels recorded at or near nameplate capacity over the past 12 months and significant achievements made in PAL's cost reduction programme." He added, "[n]evertheless, despite these considerable efforts, KM continues to operate at a loss due to the low prevailing uranium price. Paladin is unable to continue to provide the level of financial support that PAL has required in recent years, hence the decision at this time."

Given the soft pricing environment, the news from Paladin comes as no big surprise to the market. However, the supply halt does add extra stress to the primary supply picture for uranium. With Kayelekera on care and maintenance, a small, but significant, 2-percent share of global uranium supply has been removed.

In a note to clients, Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Rob Chang highlighted that Paladin's decision might be the first of its kind if the pricing environment doesn't firm up. Already, "a notable amount of utility demand ... will be 'uncovered' by long-term contracts by 2016," Chang explains in his note; further, "uncovered demand is a risk for utilities." He added that the firm expects "significant contracting activity to occur in the future," particularly in the event of more supply being taken offline.

And this positive news from Japan:

Yoichi Masuzoe, the only candidate who did not support a zero-nuclear policy, won Tokyo's gubernatorial election on Sunday.

Masuzoe, the former health and welfare minister, was backed by Japan's largest labor organization, the Japan Trade Union Confederation, which includes the embattled Tokyo Electric Power Company as a member.

While the election focused primarily on bread and butter issues like health care and preparing for the 2020 Olympic Games, nuclear power was also a major issue for voters.

"This is a battle between the group that says Japan can develop without nuclear power, and the group that says it is necessary for growth," said the 72-year-old Former Prime Minister Koizumi about the gubernatorial election in a press conference in January

The restart of Japanese reactors is taking longer than most expected but we are heading towards a restart this year of several reactors. The depressed price of uranium is forcing more and more production offline. The longer this goes on the bigger the move higher when it reverses.

Disclosure: I am long URA, CCJ, UUUU.

Stocks: URA, CCJ, UUUU