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METALS-Copper steady as growth concerns deepen and trade talks loom

Zandi Shabalala

* GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns: http://tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl (Updates throughout, changes dateline from BEIJING/MELBOURNE)

LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) - Copper prices held steady on Tuesday as a murky global economic growth outlook sapped demand ahead of a new round of trade talks between the United States and China this week.

Benchmark copper was steady at $6,339 a tonne at 1130 GMT, having touched its lowest in a month in the previous session before closing 0.4 percent up.

"On one hand there are concerns about the global economy, but on other hand there are hopes that the trade dispute between the U.S. and China will be solved sooner rather than later," said Commerzbank analyst Daniel Briesemann.

"There seems to be higher uncertainty and that's why we've had two days of prices going sideways."

An inversion of the U.S. yield curve, which is widely viewed as an indicator of an economic recession, stoked fears that the world's biggest economy was headed for contraction. More immediately, the next round of U.S.-China talks to end a long and damaging trade war kicks off this week as a U.S. trade delegation visits China.

PERU: Chinese miner MMG said it expects to declare force majeure on contracts for copper from its Las Bambas deposit in Peru after a weeks-long blockade by an indigenous community.

COPPER SPREADS: The physical signs were still indicating plentiful supply as cash copper flipped from a premium to $3 a tonne discount over the three-month contract <CMCU0-3>. This was down from a $70 a tonne premium touched on March 5.

"We have known about the MMG issues in Peru for some weeks now ... it's the logical conclusion that they have declared force majeure," said Commerzbank's Briesemann. COPPER OUTLOOK: "We believe demand is neither strong nor soft enough to provide a clear trend to (copper) prices, barring broad-based and metals-intensive stimulus in China, while supplies should remain sufficient," said Julius Baer analyst Carsten Menke.

LEAD PRICES: Lead hit its lowest in two months at $2,001.50 a tonne even as stocks in LME-approved warehouses remained around 2009 levels at 79,424 tonnes. <MPBSTX-TOTAL> ZINC: China's refined zinc imports plunged to a two-year low of 20,350 tonnes in February, customs data showed, owing to unfavorable arbitrage between London and Shanghai. Refined copper cathode imports fell 5.5 percent year on year to 213,947 tonnes.

RESTARTS: Miners Rio Tinto and BHP Group said they had begun to resume operations at some facilities that had been halted as two separate cyclones battered Australia's northern coastline over the weekend.

ALUMINIUM: Norsk Hydro said one of its major aluminum divisions was back up to 60 percent of capacity after a cyber attack in March.

PRICES: Aluminium shed 0.1 percent to $1,880.50 a tonne, zinc gained 1 percent to $2,861, tin was steady at $21,335 and nickel shed 0.3 percent to $12,930.

(Additional reporting by Tom Daly in BEIJING and Melanie Burton in MELBOURNE Editing by David Goodman)