LIVE FUTURES REPORT 12/03: SHFE base metals prices drop as sentiment sours on pandemic declaration, US travel ban

Base metals prices on the Shanghai Futures Exchange were all down at the close of morning trading on Thursday March 12, with investors’ appetite for risk dented by broad economic concerns after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus (2019-nCOV) outbreak a global pandemic.

The declaration by WHO on Wednesday comes after the virus, which causes the disease Covid-19, has rapidly spread to more than 121,000 people throughout Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the United States.

Also dampening sentiment in broader markets was the overnight announcement that the US will be suspending all travel from Europe to the country for 30 days in an effort to curb the coronavirus outbreak. The US has at least 1,267 confirmed cases of the virus, according to local health agencies.

US President Donald Trump said the ban would apply only to countries in the Schengen economic and travel zone, and that the United Kingdom and Ireland would be exempted. He also later clarified that cargo and goods would not be affected by the ban, which comes into effect on Friday.

The announcement led to weakness in oil and US stock markets overnight that pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) into bear-market territory for the first time in more than 10 years. The DJIA ended Wednesday down by 1,464.94 points or 5.86% at 23,553.22.

Oil prices also fell against this negative backdrop; the price of Brent crude oil fell to $33.83 per barrel as at 11.44am Shanghai time on Thursday, down by 5% from a day earlier.

With risk sentiment once again deteriorating on virus-related jitters, base metals prices were all weaker in the morning session on Thursday with nickel giving the worst performance in terms of percentage losses.

The most-traded June nickel contract slid to 100,120 yuan ($14,391) per tonne at the close of Thursday’s morning session, down by 2,230 yuan per tonne or 2.18 % from Wednesday’s close of 102,350 yuan per tonne.

Losses were also recorded in May copper at 43,440 yuan per tonne (-1.92%), May aluminium at 12,840 yuan per tonne (-0.73%), May zinc at 15,935 yuan per tonne (-0.47%), May lead at 14,275 yuan per tonne (-0.28%) and June tin at 134,100 yuan per tonne (-1.15%).

Other highlights

  • The dollar index, which gauges the strength of the US dollar against a basket of foreign currencies, was slightly down by 0.45% at 96.2 as at 11.30am Shanghai time.
  • The Shanghai Composite Index was down by 1.34% at 2,928.80 as at 11.30 am Shanghai time.
  • In US data on Wednesday, consumer price index (CPI) on a month-on-month basis for the February period was better than expected with a rise of 0.1%. Meanwhile, core CPI, which excludes data from the food and energy sector, over the same period was in line with expectations, rising 0.2%.
  • In data on Thursday, the European Union’s industrial production and the European Central Bank’s setting of the main refinancing rate, monetary policy statement and press conference are of note.
  • Producer price data from the US is also scheduled.
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