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METALS-Coronavirus fears send copper to near 5-month low

Mai Nguyen

(Adds quotes, updates prices)

Jan 30 (Reuters) - London copper prices tumbled to a near five-month low on Thursday as the rising death toll from a new coronavirus sparked fears of an economic slowdown in top metals consumer China.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) fell as much as 1.2% to $5,571.50 a tonne, its lowest since Sept. 3, 2019. The contract has lost about 11% since the virus started denting sentiment last week.

The epidemic could slow economic growth in the world's second-largest economy to 5% or even lower, a government economist said, as authorities extended Lunar New Year holidays, companies closed shops and urged staff to stay home while airlines cancelled flights to China.

China said the number of deaths in the country from the coronavirus, which is in the same virus family with the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), rose to 170 people as of Wednesday, while number of infected patients rose to 7,711.

"Assuming a two-week shutdown, followed by a slow re-start to the manufacturing and construction sectors, we could see copper demand fall by ...approximately 100,000 tonnes," ANZ said in a note, referring to the same level in 2003 when SARS hit China.

The World Health Organization's Emergency Committee is due to reconvene on Thursday to decide again whether the virus constitutes a global emergency.

FUNDAMENTALS

* ZINC: LME zinc dropped to $2,200 a tonne, its lowest since Sept. 3, 2019. The contract has had the strongest performance among the base metals complex so far this year, albeit falling at 3.2%, as low exchange stocks supported prices.

* OTHER PRICES: LME tin decreased 0.5% to $16,125 a tonne by 0737 GMT, lead declined 1.4% to $1,807.50 a tonne, aluminium fell 0.5% to $1,729 a tonne, while nickel was almost unchanged at $12,545 a tonne.

* DOLLAR: The U.S. dollar hovered near a two-month high after the Federal Reserve held interest rates steady on Wednesday, putting pressure on metals priced in the greenback by making them more expensive for buyers with other currencies.

* TIN SPREAD: The discount of LME tin cash over the three-month contract <CMSN0-3> contracted to $5 a tonne, its lowest in more than three weeks, indicating nearby supply is not too tight.

* "We expect volatility in tin prices to play out to the downside in the short term as economic fears stemming from the coronavirus outbreak in China weigh on prices amidst traditionally weaker demand from the consumer electronics industry in the first quarter," Fitch Solutions said in a report, adding that it expects prices to recover in the second half of 2020.

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PRICES

Three month LME copper

Most active ShFE copper

Three month LME aluminium

Most active ShFE aluminium

Three month LME zinc

Most active ShFE zinc

Three month LME lead

Most active ShFE lead

Three month LME nickel

Most active ShFE nickel

Three month LME tin

Most active ShFE tin

ARBS (Reporting by Mai Nguyen in Hanoi; Editing by Aditya Soni and Uttaresh.V)