The sell-off in the base metals may be slowing down as this morning, Wednesday March 8, shows that half of the base metals trading on the London Metal Exchange are in positive territory, while the rest are trading negatively.
Chinese trade data, denominated in yuan, showed a rare trade deficit as imports surged while exports edged higher. This may well see confidence return to the commodity markets.
Copper, zinc and lead prices are up between 0.2% and 0.4%, with three-month copper prices at $5,801 per tonne, while the rest of the base metals are off between 0.2% for aluminium and 0.5% for the less liquid nickel and tin contracts. Volume this morning has been above average with 8,623 lots traded as of 06:34 GMT.
Today’s performance comes after a generally weak day on Tuesday when the metals closed with average losses of 1.1%, led by a 3.7% slump in nickel prices, a 1.3% drop in copper prices, the low on copper was $5,759 per tonne, while aluminium prices were the only ones to close in positive territory.
Precious metals are slightly firmer this morning with average gains of 0.2%, led by a 0.5% rise in palladium prices to $772.60 per oz, while gold prices are up 0.1% at $1,217.78 per oz. On Tuesday, the precious metals fell an average of 1%. The low price on Tuesday for spot gold was $1,216.55 per oz.
In Shanghai this morning, base metals on the Shanghai Futures Exchange are down an average of 0.9%, nickel has followed the weakness seen on the LME on Tuesday, prices are off 3.1%, zinc prices are down 1.2%, tin prices are off 1.1%, aluminium prices are little changed, lead prices are managing to buck the trend with a 0.7% gain, while copper prices are off 0.7% at 47,330 yuan per tonne. Spot copper prices in Changjiang are down 0.9% at 46,930-47,130 yuan per tonne, while the LME/Shanghai copper arb ratio at 8.16 is expanding, but the arb window remains closed.
In other metals in China, May iron ore prices on the Dalian Commodity Exchange are unchanged, on SHFE steel rebar prices are off 1.1%, silver prices are down 1% and gold prices are off 0.7%. In international markets, spot Brent crude oil prices are slightly weaker at $55.50 per barrel and the yield on the US 10-year treasury is firmer at 2.51%.
Equities remain on a slight back footing ahead of the next week’s US Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, the Euro Stoxx 50 and Dow closed off 0.1% and loss of momentum is raising concerns about a potential correction unfolding. In Asia this morning, equities are mainly weaker with the Nikkei off 0.5%, the CSI 300 is off 0.2%, the ASX 200 is little changed while the Hang Seng is up 0.4% and the Kospi is up 0.1%. Pre-market indications on the DAX are for a 0.2% drop on the opening.
In FX, the dollar index is firm at 101.75, the trend in the index is still rising, which is not surprising ahead of a likely US rate rise next week. The euro at 1.0568 is consolidating, as is the yen at 113.70 and the Australian dollar at 0.7595, while the sterling remains weak at 1.2206. In emerging market currencies, the yuan at 6.9030 continues to weaken, the rupee and peso are firming, while the rest we follow are flat.
The economic agenda is busy and data out so far is encouraging. As already mentioned, the surge in Chinese imports is encouraging and the small rise in exports is likely to have been affected by the Chinese Lunar New Year. In Japan, revised GDP climbed to 0.3% from 0.2%, leading indicators climbed to 105.5% from 104.8% but economic watchers sentiment slipped to 48.6 from 49.8. German industrial production climbed 2.8%, having dropped 2.4% previously – the data series is choppy. Later there is data on France’s trade balance, there is the UK budget and US data includes ADP employment data, revised non-farm productivity, unit labour costs, wholesale inventories and crude oil inventories – see table below for more details.
Base metals prices have been in retreat in recent days, some have been hit harder than others with zinc, lead and copper doing the most damage on the charts, while tin, nickel and aluminium are holding above recent support levels. For now we see this bout of weaker as some nervous profit-taking ahead of next week’s FOMC meeting and a somewhat disappointing speech last week from US president Donald Trump. Other markets are also on a back footing, so some light risk-off seems to be unfolding. That said, the Chinese trade data was bullish, stronger imports into China suggests the recovery is gaining momentum and that can only be good for metal demand. As such, we remain quietly bullish for the metals and expect dips to be supported.
Gold prices, with the other precious metals following, are under pressure, but again the prospects of a March US interest rate increase are no doubt prompting profit-taking – selling was noted ahead of the two previous rate raises in December 2015 and December 2016 and after each interest rate rise, gold prices started to their multi-month rallies. Given all the uncertainty over Brexit, the European elections and concerns about corrections in other markets, we expect weaker bullion prices to attract more haven buying.
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