March 15, 2017 / 7:44 AM / 5 months ago

METALS-London copper marks time ahead of Fed meet outcome

* BHP's Escondida readies to restart despite strike

* Coming Up: FOMC Statement at 1800 GMT

* Coming Up: Fed chair holds press briefing at 1830 GMT (Adds detail, updates prices)

By Melanie Burton

MELBOURNE, March 15 (Reuters) - London copper marked time on Wednesday ahead of the outcome of a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting that is expected to dictate the direction of the dollar, with dissipating concerns over mine supply dragging on prices for the metal.

The Fed is expected to raise interest rates for the second time in three months on Wednesday, encouraged by strong monthly job gains and confidence that inflation is finally rising to its target.

Traders were sidelined ahead of the meet which may spark volatility in the dollar.

In general, copper prices will find strong support around $6,000 a tonne due to global supply shocks, said Argonaut Securities in a report.

"We rather think any price consolidations provide BUY opportunities in copper-related stocks," it said.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange edged up 0.2 percent to $5,831.50 a tonne by 0715 GMT, adding to small gains from the previous session.

Prices last week fell to their lowest since Jan. 10 at $5,652 a tonne. Volumes were light with less than 1,600 lots of turnover in the benchmark contract.

Shanghai Futures Exchange copper was trading up 0.7 percent at 47,670 yuan ($6,8945) a tonne.

Analysts now expect a copper market deficit for 2017 after prolonged disruptions at the world's two largest copper mines, Grasberg in Indonesia and Escondida in Chile, even as the immediate disruption looks set to ease.

Escondida plans to restart operations after striking workers again rejected an invitation by controlling owner BHP Billiton to return to negotiations, an executive told reporters late on Tuesday.

A strike at Peru's top copper mine, Cerro Verde, may end next week if the labour ministry declares it illegal, the head of the union said on Tuesday after negotiations with owner Freeport-McMoRan Inc ended without an agreement on labour demands.

In news, Indonesia's Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara (AMNT) has committed to invest $9.2 billion to expand its mining business, including the construction of a new copper smelter near its mine in Sumbawa, a mining ministry official told Reuters on Wednesday.

The demand outlook for metals was encouraging. China issued a raft of upbeat data on Tuesday showing its economy got off to a strong start to 2017, supported by strong bank lending, a government infrastructure spree and a much-needed resurgence in private investment.

In other metals, LME tin slipped 1.2 percent, reversing a 2.7-percent surge on Tuesday. Nearby prices CMSNT-0 jumped to a $7 premium for those rolling positions for a day, which is likely to trigger more deliveries into LME warehouses.

PRICES

Three month LME copper

Most active ShFE copper

Three month LME aluminium

Most active ShFE aluminium

Three month LME zinc

Most active ShFE zinc

Three month LME lead

Most active ShFE lead

Three month LME nickel

Most active ShFE nickel

Three month LME tin

Most active ShFE tin ($1 = 6.9138 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Richard Pullin and Biju Dwarakanath)

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