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Copper rises on demand hopes; nickel also up as steel surges


PRICES of industrial metals were mostly higher in Asian trading on Tuesday, with copper hitting the highest in almost two weeks on expectations that China's appetite for the commodity could grow.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange was up 1.1 per cent at US$5,937 a tonne, its highest since May 29, having hit a five-month low on June 7.

The most-traded copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) jumped 1.5 per cent to 46,900 yuan (S$9,261.76) a tonne, after hitting 46,940 yuan earlier in the session, also its highest since May 29.

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China's Yangshan copper import premium SMM-CUYP-CN has risen to as high as US$59 a tonne, from this year's low at US$47 hit in mid-May, suggesting strong physical demand for the red metal amid falling stocks in warehouses in the top-consuming country.

"Lower prices and recovery in Chinese physical premium should keep imports strong (in June)," ANZ said in a note.

Data on Monday showed China's unwrought copper imports fell 10.9 per cent from the previous month to 361,000 tonnes in May, and were down 23.2 per cent from 470,000 tonnes in May 2018.

"Yangshan's spot premium dropped to the lowest level (this year) in May. Looking ahead, as the premium has started to recover, we expect China's import appetite to recover again in June," said Helen Lau, a metals and mining analyst at Argonaut Securities in Hong Kong.

Base metals also rose in line with firmer financial markets, as investors took heart from China's move to ease financing rules to boost local government spending on public works, and a possible cut in US interest rates.

Concerns remain, however, over the festering trade dispute between Washington and Beijing.

While US President Donald Trump said on Monday he was ready to impose more punitive tariffs on Chinese imports, Beijing said it is open for more trade talks with Washington. Mr Trump has said he is getting ready to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 Summit in Japan later this month, although China has yet to confirm any such meeting.

  • LME nickel climbed as much as 1.1 per cent while ShFE nickel gained 1.0 per cent, as the metal used to make stainless steel tracked the surging Chinese ferrous complex.
  • Aluminium: LME aluminium was up 0.5 per cent, rebounding from a 29-month low on Monday, when an upswing in exports from top producer China fuelled worries about oversupply. ShFE aluminium rose 0.6 per cent.
  • Tin: ShFE tin gained as much as 1.3 per cent while LME tin edged down 0.7 per cent. Malaysia Smelting Corp Bhd (MSC) is delaying shipments to customers, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

But MSC, one of the world's largest producers of refined tin, said in a statement that delivery of shipments to its customers were on schedule. REUTERS