MORNING VIEW: Base metals prices tread water while Greater China markets are closed

With Greater China on holiday, base metals trading on the London Metal Exchange has been quiet this morning, Friday February 12, with prices little changed and trading volumes light - but so far prices are holding up in high ground.

  • The outlook for metals demand is strong, but could it be derailed by the global semiconductor shortage?

Base metals
Three-month base metals prices on the LME were mixed this morning. Zinc was the most active on the upside with a 0.3% rise to $2,808 per tonne, while nickel was the weakest, with prices off by 0.2% at $18,560 per tonne. The rest were little changed, with copper off by just 0.1% at $8,286.50 per tonne.

Volumes have been very low – which is not surprising with the Chinese markets closed – and only 1,414 lots were traded as of 6.58am London time, compared with a more normal level of around 6,500 lots at similar time of day.

Precious metals
Precious metals were also mixed, with spot gold down by 0.4% at $1,819.15 per oz, platinum off by 0.2% at $1,229 per oz, palladium little changed at $2,354.30 per oz and silver up 0.2% at $27.03 per oz.

Wider markets
The yield on United States 10-year treasuries is trading in a narrow range and was recently quoted at 1.16% this morning, up from 1.4% at a similar time on Thursday.

Those Asian-Pacific equities that were open, and that we follow, were weaker: the ASX 200 (-0.63%) and Nikkei (-0.14%).

The US Dollar Index remains on the back foot and was recently quoted at 90.47, down from its recent high of 91.60 on February 5.

The other major currencies were mixed this morning: the euro (1.2126) and the Australian dollar (0.7746) were holding on to gains, while sterling (1.3800) and the yen (104.85) were slightly weaker.

Key data
Data already out on Friday showed a barrage of United Kingdom data, most of which was positive, even if it had lost upward momentum – although construction output did fall 2.9% in December (see table below for more details).

Out later, there is US data on preliminary University of Michigan (UoM) consumer sentiment and inflation expectations.

Today’s key themes and views
The metals continue to look strong but key will be whether they can hold on to the gains, or build on them, with China on holiday.

One issue that is of growing concern, and another potential headwind for metals demand, is the shortage of semiconductors, which is already causing some auto manufacturers to slow production. And that could cause a pushback up the supply chain.

Gold prices, meanwhile, remain within their sideways-to-down channel; silver and palladium prices are working sideways-to-higher; and platinum is consolidating its recent strong run, having run into selling above $1,250 per oz on Thursday.

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