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METALS-London copper falls to nearly 3-yr low on virus fears, market chaos

March 9 (Reuters) - Base metals prices fell on Monday, with London copper hitting its lowest in nearly three years, as global markets fell amid plunging oil prices and rising coronavirus cases in Italy and the United States.

Asian shares sank as panicked investors fled to bonds to hedge the economic shock from the coronavirus and as oil plunged more than 20% after Saudi Arabia slashed its official selling price.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) fell as much as 2% to $5,494 a tonne, its lowest since May 2017. The most-traded copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) dropped to a 40-month low at 43,310 yuan ($6,258.50) a tonne.

The number of coronavirus cases in Italy jumped 25% in a day to 7,375 on Sunday, and deaths there climbed by more than half to 366, forcing the country to order a lockdown across much of its wealthy north, including in financial capital Milan.

Globally, more than 3,500 people have died and more than 100,000 have been infected by the virus.

FUNDAMENTALS

* ALUMINIUM: ShFE aluminum fell to 12,855 yuan a tonne at 0201 GMT, the first time since September 2016 that the contract is under 13,000 yuan a tonne.

* ZINC: ShFE zinc tumbled as much as 4.7% to 15,195 yuan a tonne, its lowest since June 2017, while LME zinc dropped to a 45-month low at $1,929 a tonne, as weak demand and rising inventories in warehouses pressured prices.

* CHINA STOCKS: Inventories of metal in China piled up this week, data from consultancies and the Shanghai Futures Exchange showed, underscoring persistent sluggish demand in the world's top metals consumer hit by the epidemic.

* CHINA OUTPUT: China's industry ministry said on Friday that metals firms should not seek to ramp up production at all costs and should "avoid vicious competition" with one another as they return to work in the wake of the outbreak.

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DATA/EVENTS

0700 Germany Industrial Output MM Jan

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 = 6.9202 yuan) (Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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