Metals edge higher, China trade data stems corrective downswing

Base metals prices pushed modestly higher across the board during Wednesday LME morning trading – some solid Chinese trade reports earlier averted follow-through to the previous day’s corrective downswing, traders said.

In today’s data, China’s trade balance rose in May to $50 billion from the previous month. Chinese imports of unwrought copper and copper products fell 3.7 percent month-on-month to 430,000 tonnes in May, according to preliminary data published by the country’s General Administration of Customs. This lifted imports to 2.31 million tonnes in January-May, up 22.1 percent year-on-year.

“The Chinese trade data that was published today is the reason why the copper price and other metal prices are not falling any further, as the figures reveal that China imported commodities in relatively large quantities last month,” broker Commerzbank noted.

Later today, the US data flow includes the job openings data and crude oil inventories.

Further ahead, China’s CPI and new loan figures for May are tentatively scheduled for release over June 10-15. But trading in China is expected to slow ahead of those figures – businesses will close for the Dragon Boat festival on Thursday and Friday.

In the metals, copper pushed up to $4,594 per tonne, a gain of $26 from yesterday, when the market hit a two-week low. The uptrend in warehouse stocks continued, with inventories rising a net 11,075 tonnes at 207,300 tonnes.

The jump has pushed the spread trend from a backwardation of $25 last week to a contango of some $7 for its benchmark cash/threes this morning.

In the other metals, aluminium was last at $1,595, up $32 – inventories fell 6,650 tonnes to 2,488,325 tonnes.

China’s unwrought aluminium and aluminium product exports rose four percent month-on-month to 420,000 tonnes in May. This took exports to 1.9 million tonnes in the first five months of the year, which was down 7.9 percent on the same period of last year.

Nickel at $8,785 was $205 higher, with stocks down 984 tonnes at 395,514 tonnes. Zinc at $2,034 was up $32 although inventories rose 3,075 tonnes to 382,150 tonnes.

Lead at $1,734 was $25 higher, with a 25-tonne drop in inventories seen. Tin traded at $17,020, up $120 – stocks dropped 10 tonnes to $17,020.

Steel billet, cobalt and molybdenum were neglected.

(Additional reporting by Ewa Manthey, editing by Mark Shaw)