Copper prices are lower as unexpectedly soft trade data in top consumer China outweighed record imports of the metal’s concentrates last year.

China’s total exports fell by the most in two years in December, while its imports also contracted, pointing to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy in 2019 and deteriorating global demand.

Meanwhile, China’s 2018 imports of unwrought copper rose 12.9 per cent from a year earlier to a record annual high of 5.3 million tonnes.

‘Copper fundamentals are fairly constructive, but prices have been dictated by broader negative sentiment,’ said ING commodities strategist Warren Patterson.

‘The downward pressure on copper is part of the broader pressure on the commodities complex.’

COPPER: Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange ended down 0.8 per cent at $5,897 a tonne, its lowest level in more than a week.

CHINA PREMIUM: In a sign of a tighter Chinese market, Chinese Yangshan copper import premiums, at $72.50, have begun to rise after halving late last year.

CHINA ALUMINIUM EXPORTS: China’s aluminium exports in 2018 rose 20.9 per cent from a year earlier to a record high, with US sanctions on Russian producer Rusal spurring demand for Chinese metal.

TRADE TALKS: Investors are closely watching developments in trade talks between China and the United States. On Friday US officials said they expected China’s top trade negotiator to visit Washington this month.

ALUMINIUM: On-warrant stocks of aluminium available to the market in LME-registered warehouses rose by 9,300 tonnes to 1.1 million tonnes and have jumped 73 per cent since mid-December.

CHINA GROWTH: Sources told Reuters last week that Beijing is planning to lower its economic growth target to 6-6.5 per cent this year after an expected 6.6 per cent in 2018, the slowest pace in 28 years.

AUTOS: Carmakers in China will face more fierce competition this year after a tough 2018. The world’s biggest auto market contracted last year for the first time in more than two decades, the country’s top auto industry association said on Monday.

SHANGHAI ALUMINIUM: Shanghai aluminium touched its lowest since September 2016 in early trade but recovered slightly to close 0.7 per cent down at 13,285 yuan a tonne.

TRADE VOLUMES: Investors have fled the industrial metals markets as previous trading strategies have been overwhelmed by macro uncertainty.

OTHER METALS: Aluminium finished 0.4 per cent down to $1,828 a tonne, zinc slipped 0.3 per cent to $2,484, tin firmed by 0.9 per cent to $20,475 and nickel was down 0.6 per cent at $11,390. Lead fell for the first session in seven, down 0.9 per cent at $1,983.