Copper prices bounced from two-week lows as a sharp drop in inventories to their lowest in a dozen years outweighed worries about sliding stock markets and the potential for slower global growth.
On-warrant inventories – those not earmarked for delivery – in warehouses certified by the London Metal Exchange slid overnight by 9,150 tonnes to 72,625 tonnes, the lowest since December 2005, data showed on Thursday.
‘The fundamentals are looking quite supportive, especially for copper, but prices keep being pulled lower on risk aversion, the worries about a global slowdown,’ said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank in Copenhagen.
‘The market is ebbing and flowing with risk aversion on and off, but for now, there are enough fundamentals to offer support for copper, to attract buyers on dips.’
LME benchmark copper fell to a low of $US6,113.50 a tonne, its weakest since October 11 after Wall Street’s worst day since 2011 on Wednesday.
Some Asian stock markets saw heavy losses on Thursday but shares in top metals consumer China managed to close in the black while US and European markets attempted a rebound.
After the LME inventory data, copper recovered and ended open outcry trading 0.8 per cent firmer at $US6,226.
Import copper premiums in China have fallen to $US112.50 per tonne, the lowest since September 19, after hitting three-year highs of $US120 a tonne late last month.
Aluminium failed to get much support, despite LME on-warrant inventories falling 10,700 tonnes to 737,400 tonnes. LME three-month aluminium finished down 0.2 per cent at $US1,994 a tonne after touching a low of $US1,991.50, the weakest since April.
LME nickel pared losses after touching $US12,080 a tonne, the lowest since December 2017, when Chinese steel prices notched up a fourth straight day of gains.
Nickel, mainly used in stainless steel, closed down 0.6 per cent at $US12,155 a tonne.
Alastair Munro at broker Marex Spectron said short-covering helped LME lead remain in the black, edging up 0.4 per cent to finish at $US2,012 a tonne.
‘Lead exhibits the largest short of the LME complex on our estimates at 24 per cent of open interest (based on last Friday’s close) although this has come in from the recent peak of 39 per cent,’ Munro said in a note.
LME zinc slipped one per cent to close at $US2,637 a tonne while tin added 0.1 per cent to $US19,300.