February 18, 2020 / 12:24 PM / 4 months ago

METALS-Copper dips as inventory build raises fears of excess supply

(Updates with closing prices)

By Peter Hobson

LONDON, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Copper prices fell on Tuesday as deliveries into exchange warehouses raised fears that demand curbed by the coronavirus outbreak in China could cause a supply glut.

Warnings from Apple and HSBC that the epidemic was damaging their businesses sent global equities and most base metals lower, though lead prices rose on a sharp tightening of nearby supply.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) ended 0.7% down at $5,773 a tonne. The metal used in power and construction has lost 9% since its January peak but has recovered from the Feb. 3 low of $5,523.

The virus and efforts to contain its spread have slowed Chinese industry, reducing both consumption and production of metals in the world’s biggest commodities market.

“We’ve had the first LME delivery since the virus emerged, so that could be raising concern over potentially more to come,” said Deutsche Bank analyst Nick Snowdon.

But increases in LME and Chinese exchange warehouses remained roughly in line with seasonal norms, he said. “If there is a significant glut building, it has yet to come into visible locations.”

STOCKS: Headline copper inventories in LME-registered warehouses rose by 5,075 tonnes to 166,475 tonnes, while stocks in Shanghai Futures Exchange stores have jumped to 262,738 tonnes, the highest in nearly a year. MCUSTX-TOTAL CU-STX-SGH

SPECULATORS: The net short in LME copper was at 5.8% of open contracts on Friday, brokerage Marex Spectron said.

CORONAVIRUS: The death toll in China climbed to 1,868, the National Health Commission said, with 72,436 cases of infection.

SMELTERS: Chinese refined copper production touched its lowest level in 20 months in January, according to an index based on satellite surveillance of copper plants.

SHIPMENTS: Some overseas buyers of Chinese metal products have stopped accepting shipments, while others are seeking damages over delays, a China trade body said.

IMPORTS/PREMIUMS: China’s imports of refined copper are likely to fall this year, research house Antaike found. Chinese Yangshan copper import premiums, however, rose to $60 a tonne, up from $55 earlier this month and the highest since December. SMM-CUYP-CN

GERMANY: The mood among German investors deteriorated far more than expected in February, a survey showed.

DOLLAR: The U.S. currency strengthened towards last year’s 2-1/2 year high, pressuring metals by making them costlier for buyers with other currencies.

LEAD: Benchmark lead finished 1.3% up at $1,898 a tonne as the premium for cash metal over the three-month contract surged to $68 - its highest since 2011 - from only $6 a week ago, suggesting an acute shortage of nearby metal. MPB0-3

Headline stocks in LME-registered warehouses at 66,725 tonnes are near decade lows, with a handful of entities controlling the vast majority of LME warrants and cash contracts. MPBSTX-TOTAL <0#LME-WHC>

PRICES: LME zinc finished 1.2% down at $2,145 a tonne, aluminium slipped 0.1% to $1,720, nickel was down 2.2% at $12,820 and tin closed with a 0.6% decline at $16,500. (Reporting by Peter Hobson; Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Jan Harvey and David Goodman)

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