April 11, 2019 / 4:40 PM / 2 months ago

METALS-Copper falls on firmer dollar and global economy

* Dollar index rises on positive U.S. data

* Lead hits three-month low

* GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl (Adds closing prices)

By Eric Onstad

LONDON, April 11 (Reuters) - Copper fell on Thursday on a stronger dollar and worries about a global slowdown while lead touched its lowest in more than three months on concern that weak auto sales would dampen demand for car batteries.

The decline in copper came after the European Central Bank on Wednesday highlighted threats to global growth and U.S. President Donald Trump threatened new tariffs on imports from the European Union.

Adding to pressure on metals, the dollar climbed after U.S. producer prices posted the biggest rise in five months and weekly jobless claims fell to their lowest since 1969. A stronger dollar makes metals more expensive to buyers using other currencies.

“Trading recently has been choppy,” said Geordie Wilkes, head of research at Sucden Financial in London.

“It’s pretty hard to have a view with conviction because there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding not only the trade war and the deal we may have, but also global growth.”

The vast majority of lead demand, about 80 percent, goes to production of batteries, mostly for vehicles.

“We’ve seen some poor automobile numbers over the past few months that could be part of the issue with the lead market at the moment,” said Wilkes.

Benchmark lead, the worst performer on the London Metal Exchange this year, slid 1.4 percent to $1,926 a tonne, its lowest since Dec. 18.

LME copper dropped 0.9 percent to close at $6,408.

* ZINC SPREAD: The premium of cash zinc over the three-month contract rose to $74.50 a tonne, close to the $76.75 touched two weeks ago, its highest since early January and indicating tight supply.

Refined zinc has been hit by shortages in LME warehouses, but many analysts expect the tightness to ease in coming months as rising mine output flows through to refined material.

* LARGE ZINC POSITION: Exacerbating the tight conditions, one participant was holding more than half of available LME zinc inventories and short-term futures positions, LME data showed. <0#LME-WHT>

Three-month zinc, which has gained 16 percent this year, finished down 0.3 percent at $2,864 a tonne.

* NICKEL SHORTAGE: Investors appeared to brush off analyst forecasts of supply shortages in the global nickel market and the electric vehicle batteries sector unless Indonesian projects ramp up quickly. LME nickel was bid down 2.3 percent to $12,930.

* U.S.-CHINA TRADE: The United States and China have largely agreed on a mechanism to police any trade agreement they reach, including establishing new “enforcement offices”, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

* PRICES: LME aluminium dipped 0.2 percent to $1,860 a tonne after touching a one-month low of $1,854. Tin eased by 1.3 percent to $20,575, having hit its lowest since Jan. 25 at $20,490.

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Reporting by Eric Onstad Editing by John Stonestreet and Mike Harrison

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