Industrial metals prices fell further on Tuesday as investors grew increasingly nervous that a trade conflict between the United States and China could escalate, potentially damaging economic growth and metals demand.
Copper and aluminum were at or near their lowest since April while zinc plunged to its weakest since August last year. A stock market sell-off, meanwhile, has wiped $1.5 trillion off the value of global shares.
“The looming trade war is still the dominant topic and definitely weighing on sentiment,” said Commerzbank analyst Daniel Briesemann.
Adding pressure was a strong dollar, weak May economic data in China, the world’s top metals consumer, and fundamentals which do not suggest any metal is in short supply, he said.
“All (metals) prices should continue to fall,” he added, predicting further losses in copper to $6,500 a tonne or below, and in aluminum to $2,000.
Speculators were also turning negative on metals and driving prices lower, said brokers Marex Spectron.
“Systematic selling (is) weighing on the complex with shorts building across all bar nickel, where long liquidation is now having more of a price effect,” it said.
COPPER: Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange was down 0.6 percent at $6,716.50 at 1055 GMT after reaching $6,702.50 on Monday, the lowest since April 4.
TECHNICALS: Technical indicators suggested copper could break support at $6,633 a tonne and fall towards $5,833-$6,191 in three months, Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao said.
STOCKS: On-warrant stocks available to the market in LME-registered warehouses fell to 234,000 tonnes from 264,575 tonnes a week ago, but remain comfortably higher than 2017 levels, indicating adequate supply.
CHILE STRIKE: Potentially supporting prices was a threat on Monday by workers at Codelco’s Chuquicamata copper mine in Chile to strike over plans to transform the open pit into an underground mine. TRADE WAR: With U.S. tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods due to take effect on July 6, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday ramped up the rhetoric by saying restrictions on investing in U.S. tech firms aimed at China would apply “to all countries that are trying to steal our technology.”
DOLLAR: Fears over the trade conflict have helped push the dollar lower but it is still near 2018 highs, making dollar-priced metals more expensive for buyer using other currencies.
ZINC: LME zinc was down 0.4 percent at $2,846.50 a tonne after touching $2,815, the lowest since Aug. 7. Aluminium was 0.5 percent lower at $2,143.50 a tonne after reaching its weakest since April 10 at $2,138. Nickel was down 1 percent at $14,590, lead had lost 0.6 percent to $2,406.50 and tin slipped 0.5 percent to $20,020.