METALS-Copper slides to 3-1/2 month low as inventories jump

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* Copper slides to weakest since Dec. 8 at $6,532/T * LME/ShFE arb: * GRAPHIC-2018 asset returns: (Updates with official prices) By Jan Harvey LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) – Copper slid to its lowest since early December on Monday, weighed down by a sharp rise in stockpiles and simmering concerns over the outlook for U.S.-China trade relations.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed a memorandum on Friday that could impose up to $60 billion in import tariffs on Chinese goods. That sparked a sharp drop in stocks, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling more than 400 points. Reports that talks have begun to improve U.S. access to Chinese markets helped to allay fears over a potential trade war on Monday, leading to a bounce in equities. However, concerns linger that growth, and consequently metals demand, may be hit. “This is more fallout from the big equity decline we saw on Friday, and then this morning we’ve had a 35,000 tonne increase in stocks,” said Societe Generale analyst Robin Bhar. “I think the worst is over (for copper), and we should recoup some of those losses today and later this week. (But) that obviously depends on some of the rhetoric that follows what happened on Friday.” * LME COPPER: London Metal Exchange copper was untraded in official midday rings but was last bid down 1.7 percent at $6,548 a tonne. It had touched a low of $6,532, its weakest since early December.

* COPPER STOCKS: Copper inventories in LME warehouses rose by 35,000 tonnes to 352,750 tonnes, exchange data showed on Monday. On-warrant stocks have nearly doubled this year and are now at their most elevated since September 2016. * COPPER TECHNICALS: LME copper closed below the 200-day moving average on Friday, sending a “sell” signal to momentum-following funds. * COPPER POSITIONING: Open interest in LME copper, a measure of activity in the global contract, fell to its lowest in more than two years last week. In Shanghai, however, open interest has jumped since mid-January to three-year highs, suggesting large short positions have been building in China.

* SPECULATORS: Hedge funds and money managers cut their net long positions in COMEX copper contracts in the week to March 20, the latest regulatory data showed. * CHINA IMPORTS: China’s refined copper imports fell 1.8 pct in February to 229,611 tonnes, Chinese customs data showed on Monday. Primary aluminium imports slid 47 percent, while zinc imports jumped by 151 percent. * ALUMINIUM PRICES: LME aluminium was down 0.2 percent in official midday trading at $2,047 a tonne. * OTHER METALS: LME lead was up 1 percent in official trading at $2,365 a tonne, while nickel was down 0.6 percent at $12,875 as tin advanced by 0.4 percent to $20,825. Zinc was untraded in offical rings but was last bid up 0.9 percent at $3,246. (Reporting by Jan Harvey; Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in Melbourne; Editing by Mark Potter and David Goodman)

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