Copper at 6-year low on China virus fears

Reuters London | Updated on January 27, 2020

Copper was on track for its ninth consecutive session of falls on Monday, the longest losing streak in six years, as investors worried that a spreading Chinese coronavirus would hit demand in the world’s biggest metals consumer.

Copper tumbled to the weakest in nearly eight weeks on Monday and other industrial metals also slid as investors fled. “Chinese demand accounts for about 50 per cent of the majority of base metals and looking at the latest data regarding the coronavirus, it’s now spread quite widely,” said analyst Timothy Wood-Dow at BMO Capital in London.

Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) hit its lowest since December 4 at $5,812 a tonne and was down 1.8 per cent at $5,817 a tonne at 1115 GMT. Last week, LME copper posted its steepest weekly loss in five years, falling 5.5 per cent, as the virus spread.

Panic selling

“Fingers crossed we will get good earning reports this week from US companies or else the panic selling will be even worse,” a base metals trader, who asked not to be named, said.

LME nickel prices slid 2.5 per cent to $12,630 a tonne, the lowest since July 9 last year. The net speculative short position on the LME had risen to 2.9 per cent of open interest as of last Thursday, according to Marex Spectron.

“Whilst modest in size, this is a level not seen in nickel since January 2019,” the broker's Alastair Munro said in a note. On-warrant LME lead inventories material that is not earmarked for delivery - fell to 50,025 tonnes, the lowest since July 26 last year, daily LME data showed.

The premium of cash LME lead over the three-month contract rose to $12 a tonne, the highest since October 31 last year, indicating tighter supplies. It has moved from a discount of $21.25 two weeks ago. LME three-month lead shed 1.7 per cent to $1,908 a tonne. LME aluminium declined 0.9 per cent to a near six-week low of $1,765 a tonne, zinc slid 2.5 per cent to a three-week low of $2,282, and tin fell 1.7 per cent to a three-week low of $16,570 a tonne.

Published on January 27, 2020

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