Copper Declines on Tariff Worries

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Copper prices dropped Tuesday on fresh worries that a continued tariff fight between the world’s two largest economies will slow global growth and weaken demand for industrial materials.

Front-month copper for November delivery fell 1.7% to $2.7105 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices have fallen about 18% from their June four-year highs as a tariff dispute between the U.S. and China has escalated and global economic data has softened. Slower global growth tends to hurt metals used widely in construction and manufacturing.

Tuesday’s drop for metals came after President Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that it was “highly unlikely” he would accept Beijing’s request to hold off increasing tariff rates on Chinese goods from the beginning of January 2019.

Base metals fell across the board, also following a slide in the price of iron ore, the main ingredient in steel. Iron ore prices have hit four-month lows as Chinese steel mills try to cut costs in a saturated market, demanding cheaper ore prices or delaying purchases.

“If you look at steel margins in China, they’ve come under immense pressure. You’ve had record production in the last couple of months so the supply side looks pretty good,” said Warren Patterson, a strategist at ING. “Plus, you have concerns continuing to grow on the demand side.”


Copper prices have fallen about 17% from their June four-year highs as a tariff fight between the U.S. and China has escalated. Photo: kham/Reuters

Investors will be monitoring a meeting between Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the end-of-week Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires for the latest update on global trade policies.

Elsewhere in base metals, aluminum for delivery in three months fell 1.1% to $1,930.50 a metric ton on the London Metal Exchange. Zinc dropped 2.1% to $2,435, tin was down 3.3% at $18,275, nickel fell 0.9% to $10,775 and lead shed 1.7% to $1,925.

Among precious metals, front-month Comex gold for November delivery fell 0.7% to $1,211.20 a troy ounce, hurt by a stronger dollar that makes commodities denominated in the U.S. currency more expensive for overseas buyers. Most-active silver futures were down 0.9% at $14.221, platinum dipped 1.5% to $835.30 and palladium closed up less than 0.1% at $1,125.40.

Write to David Hodari at and Amrith Ramkumar at

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