Copper suffered its biggest weekly loss since September 2011 as concerns mounted about the impact of the coronavirus on the global economy and dampened the outlook for metals demand.
Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange ended 0.5 per cent lower at $US4,810 a tonne, after trading in positive territory for most of the session on Friday as central banks stepped up stimulus measures.
The metal, viewed as a bellwether for the global economy, fell 11 per cent on the week and touched its lowest since January 2016 on Thursday at $US4,371 a tonne.
The global economy is already in a recession as the hit to economic activity from the coronavirus pandemic has become more widespread, a Reuters poll showed.
“If this is a prolonged downturn, metals demand could be hit quite hard,” WisdomTree analyst Nitesh Shah said.
The Bank of England promised 200 billion pounds of bond purchases and cut its key interest rate for the second time in a little more than a week after stimulus by the European Central Bank and others around the world.
Top metals consumer China unexpectedly left its own key lending rate unchanged, but is set to unleash trillions of yuan of stimulus to revive an economy expected to shrink for the first time in decades, policy sources said.
Copper inventories in China fell this week for the first time since January 10, exchange data showed, as downstream metal consumers hit by the coronavirus come closer to restoring normal operations.
Stocks of copper in warehouses tracked by the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell 0.7 per cent after reaching their highest in nearly four years at 377,247 tonnes last week.
Copper spreads have tightened, which is usually an indicator of plentiful supply. LME cash copper’s discount to the three-month contract fell to $US4.75 a tonne, its weakest since May 2019.
Anglo American on Friday said it would reschedule work at mines in countries such as Chile to help to contain the spread of the coronavirus, while Glencore said it would review its Zambia copper operations.
Antofagasta said it would slow planned expansion at its copper mine in Chile as it reduced staff for 15 days.
LME aluminium eased 2.9 per cent to $US1,582 a tonne, zinc was steady at $US1,848, lead rose 2.1 per cent to $US1,659 and nickel eased 0.2 per cent to $US11,225.
Tin was up 0.4 per cent to $US13,950 after touching $US12,715, its lowest since July 2009.