July 2, 2018 / 9:57 AM / 5 months ago

METALS-Copper hits 7-month low as U.S., China trade tensions rumble

* Short copper positions climb

* China monetary easing expected to support industrial metals (Adds closing prices)

By Pratima Desai

LONDON, July 2 (Reuters) - Copper prices hit seven-month lows on Monday as the market priced in weaker demand in top consumer China, which is embroiled in the trade spat with the United States even as its manufacturing sector slows.

Benchmark copper ended down 1.6 percent at $6,523 a tonne from an earlier $6,519, its lowest since Dec. 5. Prices of the metal used widely in power and construction have tumbled more than 10 percent since June 7.

“Investors are taking risk off the table because of trade tensions, which threaten Chinese exports to the United States and also their profit margins,” said SP Angel analyst John Meyer. “Industrial metals rely on China.”

TRADE: U.S. President Donald Trump has this year sought to renegotiate some of the United States’ trading relationships, in particular with China. He has imposed tariffs on some imports, in turn sparking retaliatory action by other countries, raising fears of a global trade war.

ODDS: “For now, we remain of the view that a large scale “trade war” remains a low probability, though the odds of it happening have clearly increased,” JPMorgan analysts said in a note. “Acknowledging the rising trade risks, we have no exposure to the base metals complex.”

SHORTS: Marex position estimates show short copper positions across COMEX, Shanghai Futures Exchange and the LME.

Short positions on the LME totalled 6.9 percent of open interest on the LME - 11,600 lots or 290,000 tonnes - at close of business on June 28, the largest short since Sept. 16.

COPPER: China accounts for nearly half of global copper consumption estimated this year at around 24 million tonnes.

MANUFACTURING: Growth in China’s manufacturing sector cooled slightly in June as firms faced rising input costs and a decline in export orders amid an escalating trade dispute with the United States, a private survey showed.

DOLLAR: A stronger U.S. currency also weighed on industrial metals as it makes dollar-denominated commodities more expensive for non-U.S. firms.

CHINA MONEY: Monetary easing in China is expected to help support industrial metals.

China’s central bank in April unexpectedly cut reserve requirement ratios (RRR) for most banks, in a move that was earlier and more aggressive than expected, highlighting concerns over liquidity.

Many analysts expect further RRR cuts in coming months as China’s economic growth starts to cool under pressure from rising borrowing costs and a regulatory crackdown on riskier lending practices.

PRICES: Aluminium fell 1.6 percent to $2,098 a tonne, zinc was down 1.1 percent to $2,822 a tonne, lead slid one percent to $2,386 a tonne, tin was unchanged at $19,750 a tonne and nickel lost 2.3 percent to $14,550 a tonne.

Reporting by Pratima Desai; Editing by Mark Potter

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