LIVE FUTURES REPORT 19/09: LME metals mixed, ranging ahead of FOMC outcome

Base metals prices moved either side of previous closing levels during London Metal Exchange pre-market trading on Tuesday September 19, with the market largely devoid of short-term direction after recent sizeable swings, traders said.

Prices were ranging, instead, ahead of the outcome of the latest US Federal Open Market Committee monetary policy meeting on Wednesday. However, unless there is some significant unexpected development by the US Federal Reserve tomorrow – no movement is anticipated in interest rates – the price impact may be limited to responses to dollar gyrations.

“Generally, with the metals’ fundamentals looking stronger, we have expected the pullbacks to lead to buying opportunities. For now, we would let the markets show their hand more, especially ahead of the FOMC meeting,” Metal Bulletin’s William Adams said.

Overall, following the robust rallies that were seen across the board during August, and subsequent technical corrections and profit-taking, the metals markets look more biased to the upside, given more favourable post-summer fundamentals, traders added.

“Prices need a catalyst to regain direction… in reality, the markets seem to have entered into a zone of uncertainty, which can be when they are at their most dangerous,” Malcolm Freeman of Kingdom Futures said.

Copper little changed, inventories decline

  • The three-month copper price was just $4 lower at $6,526 per tonne, around the middle of a tight $44 intra-day range. In spreads, the benchmark cash/three-month rate held around a wide $51.50 per tonne contango.
  • Warehouse inventories fell by a net 2,300 tonnes to 300,625 tonnes.

Other base metals range, aluminium back above $2,100/t

  • Elsewhere, the three-month aluminium price hopped back above $2,100 per tonne to trade at $2,113, a $24 advance. Stocks were 4,150 tonnes lower at 1,306,650 tonnes.
  • The three-month nickel price slipped to $10,980 per tonne, a $255 loss – there was a 30-tonne increase in inventories to 383,502 tonnes.
  • “Demand for nickel is weakening. Stainless steel prices have retreated while stocks have been building up together with greater import volumes,” Citic Futures Research said.
  • The three-month zinc price dropped to $3,087 per tonne, a $10 loss – stocks rose 5,425 tonnes to 267,525 tonnes. The cash/three month backwardation was around $27, against $29.50 yesterday.
  • The lead three-month price gained $5 to $2,395 – there was a modest 200-tonne fall in stocks to 162,700 tonnes.
  • The three-month tin price eased $30 to $20,670 per tonne. Inventories were unchanged at 1,930 tonnes.

Currency moves and data releases

  • The dollar index was down 0.12% at 91.86.
  • In other commodities, the Brent crude oil spot price rose 30 cents to $55.69 per barrel.
  • In equities, the UK FTSE 100 index climbed nearly 19 points to around 7,272.
  • The economic agenda is relatively light today. The EU’s July current account balance showed a slightly higher surplus of €25.1bn. US data later today includes metals-sensitive building permits, housing starts, current account figures and monthly import prices.

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