Copper was set for a fifth week of gains on Friday but the rally faltered after US President Donald Trump said he did not plan to meet China’s Xi Jinping before a March 1 deadline for the two countries to achieve a trade deal.
The news reignited concern that the US-Chinese row will worsen, damaging the already weakening global economy and curtailing metals demand.
Global equities markets fell and the US dollar was on track for its biggest weekly rise in six months, further pressuring metals by making them more expensive for buyers holding other currencies.
Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) closed down 0.6 per cent at $US6,210 a tonne on Friday, but was still up around 1.2 per cent this week after touching a two-month high of $US6,289.50 on Thursday.
‘New concerns about the trade dispute are clearly weighing on prices,’ said Commerzbank analyst Daniel Briesemann, adding that an escalation could send copper back towards January’s 1-1/2 year low of $US5,725 a tonne.
But he said that, if the two sides reach a deal, copper could rise as high as $US6,800 in the second quarter, helped by supply shortfalls.
The White House said the next round of US trade talks with China will begin on February 11.
The European Commission and the Bank of England have sharply cut their forecasts for economic growth in the euro zone and Britain.
On-warrant copper stocks available to the market in LME-registered warehouses have fallen to 87,725 tonnes from about 130,000 tonnes in mid-January and are near decade lows, pointing to an undersupplied market.
Chilean state miner Codelco said heavy rains had forced a suspension of operations at its northern copper mines Chuquicamata and Ministro Hales.
Cash zinc has moved from a premium to a discount against the three-month LME contract for the first time since September, suggesting shortages in nearby supply are easing.
Russia’s Rusal said it expected aluminium demand to grow in 2019 and there was potential for prices to rise.
It said production outside China was flat at 27.6 million tonnes in 2018 while demand rose by 2.8 per cent to 30 million tonnes.
LME aluminium ended down 0.7 per cent at $US1,880 a tonne, zinc fell 1 per cent to $US2,704, lead closed unchanged at $US2,080 and tin rose 0.5 per cent to $US21,050.
Nickel, which had had the biggest rally of any industrial metal in recent weeks, finished down 3.2 per cent at $US12,570 a tonne, falling below its technically important 200-day moving average.