LONDON: Copper prices hit three-month lows on Monday as the market priced in weaker demand in top consumer China, which is embroiled in the trade spat with the United States even as its manufacturing sector slows.
Benchmark copper was down 0.5% at US$6,585 (RM26,666) a tonne, its lowest since March 26. Prices of the metal used widely in power and construction have tumbled 10 percent since June 7.
“Investors are taking risk off the table because of trade tensions, which threaten Chinese exports to the United States and also their profit margins,” said SP Angel analyst John Meyer. “Industrial metals rely on China.”
US President Donald Trump has this year sought to renegotiate some of the United States’ trading relationships, in particular with China. He has imposed tariffs on some imports, in turn sparking retaliatory action by other countries, raising fears of a global trade war.
“For now, we remain of the view that a large scale “trade war” remains a low probability, though the odds of it happening have clearly increased,” JPMorgan analysts said in a note. “Acknowledging the rising trade risks, we have no exposure to the base metals complex.”
Short positions on the LME totalled 6.9% of open interest on the LME — 11,600 lots or 290,000 tonnes — at close of business on June 28, the largest short since Sepember. 16.
China accounts for nearly half of global copper consumption estimated this year at around 24 million tonnes.
Growth in China’s manufacturing sector cooled slightly in June as firms faced rising input costs and a decline in export orders amid an escalating trade dispute with the United States, a private survey showed.
A stronger US currency also weighed on industrial metals as it makes dollar-enominated commodities more expensive for non-US firms.
China’s central bank in April unexpectedly cut reserve requirement ratios (RRR) for most banks, in a move that was earlier and more aggressive than expected, highlighting concerns over liquidity.
Many analysts expect further RRR cuts in coming months as China’s economic growth starts to cool under pressure from rising borrowing costs and a regulatory crackdown on riskier lending practices.