Copper prices fell on Tuesday as the effect of a strengthening US dollar overshadowed positive trade data from China, the world’s largest consumer and producer of industrial metals.
Chinese imports and exports grew more strongly than expected in April and copper imports rose 2.8 per cent from the previous month, implying healthy demand and pushing prices higher in early trading.
But interest was curbed by the US dollar, which reached a new 2018 high against a basket of major currencies, making dollar-denominated industrial metals more expensive for users of other currencies.
‘The strong dollar has taken its toll,’ said Robin Bhar, head of metals research at Societe Generale.
COPPER: Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange closed down 1.2 per cent at $US6,745 a tonne, falling below its technically important 200-day moving average.
RANGEBOUND: Copper has been locked between around $US6,600 and $US7,300 since late last year after recovering from a 2016 low of $US4,318.
STOCKS: Headline copper inventories in LME-registered warehouses fell 8,750 tonnes to 302,625 tonnes, the lowest in three months but far more than December’s 183,525 tonnes .
CHINA IMPORTS: Higher Chinese copper imports may not imply greater demand, said analysts at Commerzbank. ‘The question is whether this is thanks to a dynamic economy or simply arbitrage, i.e. stocks being shifted between warehouses,’ they said.
CHINA DATA: A flurry of data in coming weeks is expected to show China’s economy remained strong in April, underpinned by a pick-up in industrial output and a rebound in exports.
US-CHINA TRADE: China’s top economic official will visit Washington next week to resume trade talks, the White House said on Monday, after discussions in Beijing last week failed to produce agreement.
ANTOFAGASTA: Chilean copper producer Antofagasta said it would take up to three months for stocks to return to normal after a pipeline blockage between the Los Pelambres processing plant and port. Full year production guidance was unchanged.
ALUMINIUM: Aluminium exports from top producer China inched higher in April, as new US import tariffs were offset by US sanctions on Russia’s Rusal that pushed up international prices, making export more lucrative.
ALUMINIUM SPREAD: The premium for cash aluminium over the three-month contract has risen to $US24.25 from close to zero a week ago, suggesting tighter nearby supply.
LME aluminium finished up 0.2 per cent at $US2,355 a tonne after surging to seven-year highs last month.
ZINC: Zinc ended 0.2 per cent higher at $US3,060 a tonne, up from a nine-month low last week. Traders said gains were technically driven after prices held above the psychologically important level of $US3,000 a tonne.
OTHER METALS: Nickel closed down one per cent at $US13,880 a tonne, lead ended 1.3 per cent lower at $US2,288 and tin finished down 1.4 per cent at $US20,925.