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Copper Sinks After Strong Week Supported by Renewed Trade Talks, Rate Cut Hopes

June 21, 2019 at 10:52 by Andrew Moran

Copper futures are trading lower on Friday after a strong weekly performance supported by renewed US-China trade negotiations and lingering supply disruptions at one of the world’s largest mines. Copper further benefited from heightened expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates sometime this year. The industrial metal is on track to record its best week in three months.

July copper futures tumbled $0.01, or 0.37%, to $2.70 per pound at 11:30 GMT on Friday on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The red metal is poised for a weekly gain of 2.8%, which is the best weekly performance since the end of March. Year-to-date, copper prices are up more than 2%.

After a month of silence, the US and China have agreed to restart trade talks ahead of the G20 summit. President Donald Trump confirmed the news on Twitter, announcing that he had a telephone conversation with President Xi Jinping. This is good news for the red metal because China is the world’s biggest consumer of copper, but if the economy continues to slow down as it has in the last year, then the demand will slump.

At the same time, following a meeting between the two leaders, President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered their governments to establish a plan for greater US-Canada collaboration on “critical minerals.” This could help boost the mining sector in both nations.

The strike at one of the largest mines in the world, Chile’s Chuqicamata mine, is continuing after unions rejected an improved contract offer from Codelco. The week-long strike has halved production volumes, leaving analysts warning that the stoppage could be felt more broadly.

According to Bloomberg News, the company offered redundancy packages worth $20,000 and greater generous retirement options for the nearly 2,000 who will leave the mine. But the unions are outraged because the contract offer does not include health care coverage.

In a joint statement, the unions said:

Codelco’s offer is irresponsible. It proposes benefits that are inferior to those included in the offer that led us to this strike.

The mine, which produced 321,000 tons of copper last year, is transitioning operations from open pit to underground.

Earlier this week, the US central bank announced that it would not be cutting rates in June, but the Fed signaled that it could pull the trigger on at least one this year should the data call for it. This might be a positive step for copper because easing monetary policy would, in theory, spur growth, potentially raising demand for the metal commodity.

In other metal markets, August gold futures dipped $1.40, or 0.1%, to $1,395.50 per ounce. July silver futures shed $0.20, or 1.3%, to $15.29 an ounce. July platinum futures edged up $1.40, or 0.17%, to $807.00 per ounce. July palladium futures fell $0.70, or 0.05%, to $1,479.90 an ounce.

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