Copper prices have fallen as worries about demand in top consumer China were reinforced after data showed weaker economic growth and on expectations of slowing activity ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.
Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange ended down 1.2 percent at $US5,981 a tonne overnight.
Prices of the metal used widely in power and construction touched a three-week high of $US6,077 a tonne last week.
‘Everything comes to a halt in the run-up to and during the Chinese New Year break, that softens the market,’ Macquarie analyst Vivienne Lloyd said.
‘Damage to copper prices from the (US-China) trade war has been priced in, so any sort of rapprochement would be bullish.’
China’s economy cooled in the fourth quarter under pressure from faltering domestic demand and bruising U.S. tariffs, dragging 2018 growth to 6.6 per cent, the lowest in nearly three decades.
With support measures expected to take time to kick in, many believe conditions are likely to worsen before they get better, and see a further slowing to 6.3 per cent this year.
‘China remains an important determinant of how healthy the copper market is. While the government has extended fiscal and monetary stimulus, the support has so far been cautious,’ BofAML analysts said in a note.
‘In our view this is unlikely to change for various reasons. Most notably, rebalancing the economy towards services/knowledge-intensive sectors makes many of the traditional stimulus tools less effective.’
The Lunar New Year break runs from February 4 to 8, but many factories close the week before.
The United States is pushing for regular reviews of China’s progress on pledged trade reforms as a condition for a trade deal – and could again resort to tariffs if it deems Beijing has violated the agreement.
Support for copper stands around $US5,950 a tonne, the 21-day moving average.
Resistance is at $US6,080, where the 55-day moving average currently sits.
Concern about nearby supplies of tin on the LME market have created a large premium above $US100 a tonne for the cash over the three-month contract.
Tin stocks in LME-approved warehouses at 1,090 tonnes are about a third of the level in December and large holdings of tin warrants and cash contracts are behind the nervousness.
Three-month tin closed up 0.2 per cent at $US20,650 a tonne, close to the seven-month high of $US20,770 a tonne hit last week.
Aluminium fell 1.0 per cent to $US1,852 a tonne, zinc rose 0.3 per cent to $US2,588, lead was untraded at the close, but bid up 0.7 per cent to $US2,012 and nickel slipped 0.2 per cent to $US11,800 a tonne.