METALS-Copper falls after U.S. kills top Iranian commander

Beckett Bronze produces cast bronze precision-machined parts and continuous cast bars. Castings are manufactured at the East 20th Street plant. The West 23rd Street plant produces finished machined parts and has about 75 machine tools including CNC lathes.

(Updates with closing prices) By Peter Hobson LONDON, Jan 3 (Reuters) – Copper and most other industrial metals fell on Friday as the killing of a top Iranian commander by the United States sent shockwaves through markets, pushing oil prices sharply higher.

Investors rushed to safe-haven assets such as gold and stock markets fell as Iran said it would seek revenge. Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) ended down 1% at $6,129.50 a tonne after touching its lowest since Dec. 11 at $6,088.50.

The metal used in power and construction has fallen around 1.5% this week, breaking a run of six weekly gains that had lifted prices to seven-month highs.

“Sentiment has been broken just a few days into the new year,” said Saxo Bank analyst Ole Hansen. “Copper is under pressure from the potential impact on growth of an escalation (between the United States and Iran).” The confrontation could worsen friction between Washington and Beijing, already locked in a damaging trade dispute, while higher oil prices would dampen economic activity, potentially weakening metals demand, Hansen said.

China’s foreign ministry said on Friday it consistently opposes the use of force in international relations. IRAN STRIKE: Iran threatened to hit back hard after a U.S. air strike in Baghdad killed Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force and one of the country’s most powerful men. MARKETS: Oil prices rose 3% to around $68 a barrel. European, U.S. and Chinese shares fell. U.S. FACTORIES: The U.S. manufacturing sector contracted in December by the most in more than a decade, an industry report said on Friday. CHINA: China will keep its inflation target unchanged this year at around 3%, sources told Reuters, suggesting policymakers will roll out more economic support measures while avoiding aggressive stimulus. The report comes after metals prices were boosted by a reduction in Chinese bank reserve requirements and data which showed China’s factory activity was not collapsing. China is the world’s largest consumer of metals.

IMPORT PREMIUMS: Chinese Yangshan import premiums slipped to $57 from $85 in September, pointing to weaker demand for foreign metal. COPPER STOCKS: Inventories in LME-registered warehouses have more than halved since August to 144,525 tonnes, while stocks in Shanghai Futures Exchange warehouses, at 141,317 tonnes, are up nearly 30,000 tonnes from early December. NICKEL: Benchmark nickel finished down 3.5% at $13,755 a tonne, having touched its lowest since Dec. 12 after breaks below its 20- and 30-day moving averages encouraged technical selling.

OTHER METALS: LME zinc fell 0.2% to $2,306, lead was flat at $1,919 and tin slipped 2.2% to $16,800. LME aluminium closed up 1.1% at $1,824.

All were heading for weekly losses aside from aluminium, which was roughly flat.
(Additional reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by David Evans and Jan Harvey and Kirsten Donovan)

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