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Copper Falls Again, Poised for Steep Weekly Loss

May 31, 2019 at 15:25 by Andrew Moran

Copper futures are tumbling at the end of the holiday-shortened trading week, poised for a significant weekly loss. Although the industrial metal is flat on the year, copper prices have been plummeting since the start of the second quarter. What is driving the downward direction of the copper market? It is all about trade, weakening sentiment, and a stronger US dollar.

July copper futures fell $0.01, or 0.4%, to $2.6425 per pound at 14:25 GMT on Friday on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The red metal is on track for a weekly slide of 1.5%, adding to its three-month slump of 10%. But thanks to its strong start to 2019, it is flat year-to-date.

The US-China trade war has not only escalated, but negotiations appear to have halted. So far, there have yet to be announcements of new talks between Washington and Beijing, spurring fears that the trade spat could potentially linger into summer and possibly into the holiday season. Things have also deteriorated on US sanctions that could push Huawei Technologies out of the global market – the US has apparently tried to encourage Canada to drop Huawei from its coming 5G network.

Ultimately, all the signs point to the trade war heading in the wrong direction.

Recent developments have hurt the greenback as the US dollar slipped 0.2% to 97.95. Despite the drop, the dollar is still headed for a weekly gain of 0.35% and the currency is up nearly 2% YTD. A weaker buck is good for dollar-denominated commodities because it makes it cheaper for foreign investors to buy.

On the data front, a new Reuters survey found that the copper market is anticipating a deficit of 205,550 tonnes in 2019 and 172,000 tonnes in 2020. Last year, the market deficit was 387,000. Meanwhile, inventories of copper in London Metal Exchange (LME)-approved warehouses have decreased about 20% since May 7. Similarly, stockpiles in warehouses monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) have also tumbled 35% since the middle of March.

This comes after Zambia, Africa’s second-biggest copper producers, announced it expects output to 100,000 tonnes this year – production fell 11.3% in the first quarter of 2019.

Because the trade dispute is hurting the world’s second-largest economy, analysts think Beijing might be enhancing its monetary and fiscal easing to generate economic growth. China accounts for half of global demand for copper, so investors paid close attention to the manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which clocked in at 49.4 in May, down from 50.1 in the previous month – anything below 50 indicates contraction.

In other metal markets, July gold futures soared $13.20, or 1.02%, to $1,305.60 an ounce. July silver futures advanced $0.07, or 0.5%, to $14.565 per ounce. July platinum futures dipped $1.90, or 0.24%, to $792.20 an ounce. July palladium futures plunged $26.30, or 1.93%, to $1,339.40 per ounce.

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