LIVE FUTURES REPORT 03/12: Trade tensions pressure SHFE base metals; nickel prices correct after recent losses

Base metals prices on the Shanghai Futures Exchange were broadly down during the morning trading session on Tuesday December 3 after a pick-up in global trade tensions dampened market sentiment.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump announced via a series of posts on social media platform Twitter that he was imposing new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Brazil and Argentina.

“Brazil and Argentina have been presiding over a massive devaluation of their currencies, which is not good for our farmers. Therefore, effective immediately, I will restore the tariffs on all steel and aluminium that is shipped into the US from those countries,” Trump tweeted.

This was followed by comments from US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that time is running out for the US and China to agree on a trade deal before December 15, when the US is scheduled to impose an additional 15% tariff on around $156 million of Chinese goods.

“US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that President Trump will increase tariffs on China if a trade agreement isn’t reached. He noted that there’s a logical deadline of 15 December,” ANZ Research analyst Cherelle Murphy said in a morning note.

Meanwhile there was a host of a manufacturing data out across Europe and the US on Monday, which saw the latter’s Institute for Supply Management (ISM) manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) slide deeper into contractionary territory at 48.1 in November.

This offset the positivity stemming from improved readings in Germany and China – see other highlights below for more details.

“Just as traders were beginning to think global manufacturing is looking a little brighter heading into the end of the year, with a pickup in China and Germany validating calls that global growth is stabilizing, the US ISM data goes splat,” Stephen Innes, chief Asia market strategist at Axitrader, said on Tuesday.

As a result of this less friendly backdrop for metals investment, the SHFE base metals were broadly down on Tuesday morning.

Bucking the trend, however, was aluminium and nickel with marginal gains of 0.22% and 0.16% respectively.

The most-traded February nickel contract on the SHFE was at 108,250 yuan ($15,379) per tonne as at 10.06am Shanghai time, up by 170 yuan per tonne from Monday’s close of 108,080 yuan per tonne.

“The rise [in nickel prices] this morning is a reasonable correction, which gains support from the fact that Indonesian ore ban will take effect from January, amid its downward spiral driven by muted stainless steel demand and high stock level of stainless steel in China,” a Shanghai-based analyst said.

Aluminium also posted slight gains, with the light metal’s most-traded January aluminium contract rising to 13,980 yuan per tonne as at 10.06am Shanghai time, up by 30 yuan per tonne from Monday’s closing price.

“There’s been some production cuts at Chinese aluminium smelters during winter as seen in previous years, so that’s been supporting aluminium price a little bit,” a second Shanghai-based analyst said.

The rest of the complex registered losses, ranged between 0.25% for January zinc and 1.14% for January lead.

Other highlights

  • The dollar index, which gauges the strength of the US currency against a basket of foreign currencies, was at 97.92 as at 10.06am Shanghai time.
  • In data on Monday, China’s Caixin manufacturing PMI rose to 51.8 in November, slightly up from 51.7 in the prior month. Germany’s final manufacturing PMI rose to 44.1 in the same month, beating the forecast 43.8.
  • The United Kingdom’s final manufacturing PMI jump to 48.9 last month, up from 48.3 previously.
  • It is a light day for data on Tuesday with the UK’s construction PMI and US’ Wards total vehicle sales of note.
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