Prices in Southeast Asia’s steel billet market have tumbled last week amid speculation that Chinese billet importers could annul contracts on the grounds of virus-related force majeure.

China has halved tariffs on a slew of US-sourced metals and minerals including copper cathodes and rare earths.

Nickel and cobalt producer Ramu NiCo, owned by state-owned Metallurgical Corporation of China, has been sued for $5.4 billion for environmental failures, the latest in a long line of environmental woes to befall the Papua New Guinea operation.

Zinc’s benchmark cash/three-month spread on the London Metal Exchange has moved into contango for the first time in five months after the largest inflow since last April brought on-warrant material to more than 50,000 tonnes.

The coronavirus outbreak in China has severely disrupted logistics in the country, creating a shortage of available truck drivers and rail freight cars, with transport between provinces severely disrupted.