Lead prices have touched the strongest levels in nearly four months as inventories drop, while nickel in London has bounced back from sharp falls in the previous session.
Lead stocks on the London Metal Exchange (LME) fell by 7,525 tonnes to 223,850 on Wednesday and available inventories that have not been earmarked for delivery were at the lowest levels in 19 months.
"Stocks of lead are quite low and right through this cycle they've been low," said Stephen Briggs, metals strategist at BNP Paribas in London.
"Not only visible stocks, but lead has much less hidden stocks lying around in China and elsewhere than is the case for zinc, copper and nickel."
Three-month LME lead ended up 0.9 per cent at $US1,924 a tonne after touching an intraday peak of $US1,928, the strongest since mid-December 2014.
Lead is the best performing LME base metal in 2015, adding about three per cent compared to losses for all the others, including a slide of around 16 per cent for laggard nickel.
Briggs said he was positive about both lead and sister metal zinc due to the closure of big mines that will lead to deficits.
"A lot of the supply-side story that applies to zinc also applies to lead in spades because the new mines that are coming on are producing almost no lead at all," said Briggs, who forecasts lead prices to rise to $US2,160 in the fourth quarter.
LME nickel rebounded as some investors bet that recent declines were not sustainable, gaining 0.2 per cent to end at $US12,580 a tonne.
Nickel slumped 3.7 per cent on Tuesday when it tumbled back towards six-year lows of $US12,310 struck on April 1.
Shanghai nickel echoed Tuesday's losses in London, sliding 2.9 per cent on concerns that China's struggling construction sector would corrode demand for the stainless steel ingredient.
"Clearly, the market is seeing the general weakness in the Chinese steel market as having a future impact on speciality feed markets as well. Nickel has been suffering as a consequence," said strategist Daniel Hynes at ANZ in Sydney.
Benchmark LME copper fell 0.9 per cent to end at $US6,010 a tonne after a 1.4 per cent gain in the previous session and aluminium slipped 0.7 per cent to $US1,771 a tonne.
Zinc ended up 0.3 per cent at $US2,159 a tonne and tin ended down 0.3 per cent at $US16,700.