METALS-Copper slips as LME supply squeeze appears to ease

Originally, the company produced only foundry castings at the 106 East 20th Street plant, but expanded to producing machined parts in the 1920’s. A Machine Shop building was leased until 1969 when a new Machine Shop building was built at 401 West 23rd Street.

(Updates throughout, changes dateline from Beijing)By Peter Hobson

LONDON, March 7 (Reuters) – Copper prices fell on Thursday as rising stockpiles and narrowing time spreads signalled a supply squeeze on the London Metal Exchange may be easing.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was down 0.8 percent at $6,415.50 a tonne at 1124 GMT, drifting further from a 6-1/2-month high of $6,540 reached on Feb. 25.

Optimism over the ability of a potential U.S.-China trade deal and Chinese economic stimulus to push prices higher was also fading, said Capital Economics analyst Ross Strachan.

Stimulus measures announced this week in China, the largest metals consumer, were “not a game changer” and would not stop growth there from slowing, he said.

Copper’s more than 10 percent rise from a January low also showed traders had priced in the possibility of a trade deal, he said, predicting copper would end the year at $6,250 a tonne.

COPPER STOCKS: Inventories in LME-registered warehouses rose to 120,075 tonnes from 116,872 tonnes on Wednesday, the lowest since 2008.

SPREAD: The premium for cash copper over the three-month
contract tumbled to around $30 from a four-year high of $70 on Tuesday, with traders and analysts saying they expected more deliveries into LME warehouses.

POSITIONING: Speculators had by Monday cut their net long position in LME copper to 12 percent of open contracts from 13.5 percent last week, brokers at Marex Spectron said.

CHINE PREMIUMS: China’s copper market looks less tight than the LME. Stocks in Shanghai Futures Exchange warehouses have risen sharply during a seasonal manufacturing lull and import premiums at $52.5 are the lowest in nearly two years.

CHINA STIMULUS: Chinese Finance Minister Liu Kun said on Thursday a proactive fiscal policy does not mean China will open the floodgates for stimulus. China announced measures to support growth on Tuesday.

GRAPHIC: The impact of Chinese stimulus is due to take six to nine months to flow through to demand for industrial metals. TRADE TALKS: U.S. President Donald Trump said trade talks with China were moving along well and predicted either a “good deal” or no deal.

RUSAL: Rusal, the world’s largest aluminium producer outside China, said its sales were gradually returning to normal after U.S. sanctions on the company were lifted in January.

CHINA STEEL: China’s top steelmaking region of Hebei will cut 14 million tonnes of annual steelmaking capacity both this year and next year as it strives to improve air quality, the province’s Communist Party head said.

OTHER METALS: LME aluminium was down 0.2 percent at $1,863 a tonne, zinc was down 0.4 percent at $2,778, nickel shed 1.1 percent to $13,435, lead was up 0.6 percent at $2,111.50 and tin slipped 0.1 percent to $21,375.

(Reporting by Peter Hobson; Additional reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Mark Potter)

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