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Copper Slumps on US-China Trade Truce Doubts, Sluggish Economy

December 4, 2018 at 15:27 by Andrew Moran

Copper futures are slumping on Tuesday as investors are doubtful over the US-China trade truce that was agreed to over the weekend in Argentina during the G20 summit between President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping. Traders are also bearish on the industrial metal because of Beijing’s cooled down economy – China is the world’s biggest consumer of the red metal.

March copper futures dipped $0.015, or 0.55%, to $2.79 per pound at 13:46 GMT on Tuesday on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Copper prices have had an interesting 2018, seesawing between red and green, unable to garner any significant momentum. Year-to-date, copper has tumbled nearly 8%, though it has surged 7% since September.

Following the landmark meeting between the US and Chinese leaders, it was announced that a 90-day suspension in trade hostilities was agreed upon. Reports also suggest that Washington will put the brakes on a planned 15% increase on tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. In exchange, Beijing will reduce automobile tariffs and purchase more American agriculture.

Trade negotiators are hoping to reach a new trade deal by the end of the 90 days. While the market was initially jubilant, pessimism has started to roll in as leading stock index have plunged. Many investors, including copper traders, remain doubtful that the world’s two biggest economies will conclude the bitter trade dispute.

Moreover, analysts do not anticipate that the Chinese economy will rev up anytime soon, which is bad news for the copper market. If the economy is not expanding, then other pockets of the economy will suffer, creating a ripple effect into the copper industry. Construction for instance, requires a lot of copper, and if it is not happening, then demand for copper will diminish.

This has already been seen in new data that found premiums for imports of copper into China tumbled 10.7% to an 18-month low this month.

Copper’s losses were capped by a declining US dollar as the greenback slipped 0.3% to 96.65. A weaker buck is good for dollar-denominated commodities because it makes it cheaper for foreign investors to buy.

In other metals markets, February gold futures tacked on $6.60, or 0.53%, to $1,246.60 per ounce. March silver futures added $0.20, or 1.38%, to $14.70 an ounce. January platinum futures shed $6.50, or 0.8%, to $804.20 per ounce. January palladium futures jumped $7.90, or 0.68%, to $1,173.65 an ounce.

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