Wires

METALS-Shanghai aluminum hits lowest in nearly 3-1/2 yrs as virus spreads

Mai Nguyen

(Recasts, updates prices)

March 6 (Reuters) - Shanghai aluminum touched its lowest in 41 months, tracking a broader fall in prices of metals, on fears of a severe hit to the global economy as the coronavirus outbreak spread rapidly outside China.

The most active aluminum contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) dropped as much as 0.8% to 13,020 yuan ($1,872.14) a tonne, its lowest since Sept. 21, 2016.

Three-month aluminum on the London Metal Exchange (LME) declined 0.6% to $1,710 a tonne by 0505 GMT.

Prices of most other industrial metals, which closely track the health of the global economy due to their vast use in many industries, also fell as virus death toll and infection cases rose in Europe and the United States.

LME copper fell 0.5% to $5,646.50 a tonne, nickel declined 0.7% to $12,800 a tonne, zinc eased 0.6% to $1,999.50 a tonne and lead slipped 0.5% to $1,825 a tonne.

ShFE copper fell 0.8% to 44,780 yuan ($6,438.90) a tonne, nickel edged up 0.1% to 102,790 yuan a tonne, zinc eased 0.1% to 15,930 yuan a tonne while lead edged up 0.4% to 14,445 yuan a tonne.

FUNDAMENTALS

* ALUMINIUM STOCKS: Aluminium inventories in warehouses tracked by ShFE <AL-STX-SGH> climbed to their highest in eight and a half months at 439,087 tonnes by the end of last week, latest data showed, as weak downstream demand pushed producers to stockpile.

* VIRUS TOLL: The death toll in Italy has risen to 148, with the contagion in Europe's worst-hit country showing no sign of slowing, while deaths in the United States rose to 12 and 53 new cases were confirmed.

* US: President Donald Trump said the U.S. economy might take a hit from the outbreak but predicted the challenge would eventually pass.

* CHINA: The virus likely halved China's growth in the first quarter compared to the previous three months, more severe than thought just three weeks ago and triggering expectations for earlier interest rate cuts, a Reuters poll showed.

* WUHAN: Wuhan, the epicenter of China's coronavirus epidemic, will likely see new infections drop to zero by the end of this month, an expert with the country's top panel on battling the illness said on Thursday.

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PRICES

Three month LME copper

Most active ShFE copper

Three month LME aluminum

Most active ShFE aluminum

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 ($1 = 6.9546 Chinese yuan renminbi) ($1 = 6.9546 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Vinay Dwivedi)