Copper drops to 16-month low as economic slowdown fears mount

London copper prices dropped to a 16-month low on Thursday, as worried mounted that a rise in COVID-19 cases in key consumer China and aggressive U.S. interest rate hikes would tip the global economy into recession and slow metals demand.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was down 1.7% at $8,628.50 a tonne, as of 0330 GMT, after dropping to its lowest since Feb. 19, 2021 at $8,564.50 earlier in the session.

The most-traded July copper contract in Shanghai slipped 2.9% to 66,030 yuan ($9,848.02) a tonne by the midday break, hitting its lowest since late-August.

“The commodities market is trounced by the demand destruction that recession fears are pricing in. This is seen from ferrous to energy and in base metals,” a Singapore-based metals trader said.

“In the near term, we need to wait for stimulus announcements and data from China for the next catalyst to move up from here. Else, (I) think we’ve found a floor here.”

Asian shares wobbled while oil prices fell as mounting worries about the risks of a global recession kept broad investor sentiment fragile.

The U.S. Federal Reserve is not trying to engineer a recession to stop inflation but is fully committed to bringing prices under control even if doing so risks an economic downturn, its chief Jerome Powell said on Wednesday.

COVID-19: Mainland China reported 135 new coronavirus cases for June 22, compared with 126 new cases a day earlier, the National Health Commission said.

DATA: Japan’s factory activity growth slowed in June as China’s strict COVID-19 curbs took a toll on manufacturing demand.

CHILE: Workers at Chilean state-owned mining giant Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, launched a major strike on Wednesday to protest the closure of a smelter over environmental issues, though the government downplayed the impact on operations.

INSG: The global nickel market deficit narrowed to 200 tonnes in April, compared with a shortfall a month earlier of 8,900 tonnes, data from the International Nickel Study Group showed.

OTHER METALS: LME aluminium rose 1% to $2,504 a tonne, zinc slipped 0.5% to $3,518.50, lead eased 0.2% to $2,016, and tin dropped 2.8% to $28,250, its lowest since April 2021.

Shanghai aluminium lost 2.1%, zinc fell 2%, nickel dropped 6.9%, lead was down 0.5% and tin fell 3.9%.

($1 = 6.7049 Chinese yuan)

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