Copper prices fell on Friday after weak manufacturing and investment data from top consumer China reinforced expectations of damage to growth and demand prospects from the protracted US-China trade war.
Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) fell 0.6 per cent to $US5,822 a tonne in closing open-outcry trading.
Prices of the metal used widely in the power and construction industries has dropped as low as $US5,740 this month to its weakest in five months.
“We were expecting the dispute to be settled by July, but there is a lot of political posturing and it now looks like it might go on into autumn,” said SP Angel analyst John Meyer.
“It doesn’t look as if there will be much relief for copper, though there will be support from supply side disruptions like Chuquicamata (copper mine) in Chile.”
A firmer US currency in afternoon trade further undermined commodity prices because US-dollar-denominated commodities become more expensive for importers in other currencies, which could subdue demand.
Union workers at Codelco’s Chuquicamata copper mine, one of the world’s largest, said they would walk off the job on Friday after failing to reach a labour deal with Codelco, the world’s top copper producer.
China’s industrial output growth slowed unexpectedly in May to a more than 17-year low, with investment also cooling in the latest sign of weakening demand.
Global demand for base metals is highly correlated with industrial production.
Talks between the world’s two largest economies collapsed last month, with US President Donald Trump accusing China of watering down commitments it had made.
Trump raised tariffs on Chinese goods and has threatened even more.
China accounts for about half of global copper demand, estimated at 24 million tonnes this year, while the United States consumes nearly 10 per cent.
Rising copper stocks in LME-approved warehouses – at 252,425 tonnes and up 35 per cent since late May – are weighing on copper prices.
Worries about lead supplies, mainly used to make car batteries, have been fuelled by Belgium-listed Nyrstar, which has halted output at its Port Pirie lead and zinc smelter in Australia and declared force majeure.
That worry is compounded by one company holding large amounts of lead on LME warrant and can be seen in the premium paid for nearby delivery.
The premium for cash over the three-month lead contract stands at about $US8 a tonne, having been at a discount at the end of May.
It rose to 2-1/2 year highs above $US40 a tonne earlier this month.
Three-month lead slipped 1.3 per cent to close at $US1,865 a tonne.
Prices of stainless steel ingredient nickel touched two-week highs at $US12,065 a tonne on concern about supply from major producer Indonesia, where flooding has halted some mining operations.
It did not trade in closing rings but was up 0.2 per cent at $11,865 a tonne in electronic trading.
Aluminium fell 1.3 per cent to $US1,764.50 a tonne in closing rings, zinc shed one per cent to $US2,453 and tin dropped 0.8 per cent to $US19,205.