METALS MORNING VIEW 20/07: Metals prices consolidate, waiting for direction

Base metals prices on the London Metal Exchange are up by an average of 0.4% this morning, Thursday July 20, with gains fairly tightly bunched between 0.2% for zinc and tin and 0.7% for lead. Three-month copper prices are up 0.3% at $5,983 per tonne – volume has been below average at 4,300 lots as of 06:09 BST.

This comes after a down day on Wednesday when despite some early strength, prices went on to close down an average of 1%, led by a 2.6% drop in lead prices.

Gold and silver prices are off around 0.3% this morning, with spot gold prices at $1,238.46 per oz, while the PGMs are little changed. This follows a day of consolidation in bullion prices on Wednesday, while the PGMs closed off around 0.8%. The pause in the rebounds in precious metals coincides with a halt in the dollar’s slide.

Metals prices on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (SHFE) remain on divergent paths, with aluminium prices up 0.6%, copper prices up 0.1% at 47,850 yuan ($7,073) per tonne and tin prices little changed. The other metals are lower, led by a 1% drop in lead prices, with zinc prices off 0.6%, nickel prices down 0.2% while tin prices are little changed. Spot copper prices in Changjiang are up 0.1% at 47,540-47,690 yuan per tonne and the LME/Shanghai copper arb ratio has firmed to 8.0.

In other metals in China, September iron ore prices on the Dalian Commodity Exchange continue their rise with a 0.9% gain to 532 yuan per tonne, but on the SHFE, steel rebar prices are down 0.8% and gold and silver prices are little changed.

In international markets, spot Brent crude oil prices are up 0.2% at $49.65 per barrel, boosted by a bigger than expected drawdown in inventories. The yield on US ten-year treasuries has eased to 2.26% and the German ten-year bund yield has eased to 0.54%. The Bank of Japan kept its policy stance unchanged but cuts its inflation forecast and pushed out the date for when it expects inflation to hit its 2% target – this suggesting easy monetary policy will be around for longer. They were, however, more upbeat on gross domestic product.

Equities were upbeat on Wednesday, with the Euro Stoxx 50 closing up 0.6%, the Dow closed up 0.3% at 21,640 and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite set fresh highs. Asia has followed suit this morning, with the Nikkei and ASX 200 up 0.6%, the Kospi up 0.4%, Hang Seng up 0.3% and the CSI 300 up 0.1%.

The dollar index at 94.92 remains weak, but it is holding above Tuesday’s low of 94.48 – a stalemate in Washington politics combined with weak US inflation data has reduced the chances of another US rate rise this year and that has weighed on treasury yields and the dollar. The halt in the dollar’s slide, however, is leading to some consolidation in other currencies with the euro at 1.1505, the yen at 112.13, the Australian dollar at 0.7927, after a peak earlier this morning of 0.7986, while sterling is at 1.3024. The yuan is also retreating, it was recently quoted at 6.7651 and the other emerging currencies have turned away from highs too.

The economic agenda is busy today – Japan’s trade data showed continued growth in exports and imports, which bodes well for global growth. Japan’s all industries activity dropped 0.9% in May but that was after a 2.3% surge in April. The focus today will be on the European Central Bank (ECB) press conference at 1:30 pm BST, but ahead of that there is a Bank of Japan press conference and data on German producer price index (PPI), EU current account, UK retail sales and the ECB rate decision. Data out in the USA includes initial jobless claims, the Philly Fed manufacturing index, leading indicators and natural gas storage.

The higher base metals prices are running into supply, no doubt a combination of profit-taking, pricing and forward selling. Zinc and lead seem to be attracting the most selling, while the others are holding up better. Strong equity markets, some good economic data and a weaker dollar, bode well for metals prices, but there is a danger that something (disappointment over China/USA trade talks, a stalemate in Washington politics, etc.) could prompt a correction in equities that could lead to risk-off across markets. However, in the absence of that we remain quietly bullish for metals prices. The ECB press conference could trigger some volatility.

Gold’s rebound has run out of steam, the halt in the dollar’s slide is proving a headwind. We have not been expecting much from the precious metals camp in recent days and in the absence of a pick-up in geopolitical tensions this may remain the case. Although, again, we would be braced for some currency volatility during the ECB press conference, which would likely impact gold prices too.

Metal Bulletin publishes live futures reports throughout the day, covering major metals exchanges news and prices.

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