June 5, 2019 / 11:07 AM / 3 months ago

METALS-Copper hits five-month low as U.S.-China trade dispute weighs

* GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl

* Nickel hits lowest in over four months (Releads, adds fresh comment, updates with closing prices)

By Pratima Desai

LONDON, June 5 (Reuters) - Copper sunk to a five-month low on Wednesday as a firmer dollar and anxiety about the fallout on growth and demand from the U.S.-China trade dispute outweighed dovish comments from the U.S. Federal Reserve chairman.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange fell 1.5 percent to $5,792 a tonne in after-hours electronic trading, the weakest since Jan. 4.

It had shed 0.6% to $5,807 a tonne in closing open outcry trading, reversing direction after earlier touching a high above $5,900.

The market has been losing ground in recent months on worries about demand in China, which accounts for around half of global consumption of industrial metals.

“It still all comes down to trade and without a resolution there things haven’t really changed, even if the Fed does cut,” a copper trader said.

RATES: Metals got a fillip in the morning after the Fed chairman said on Tuesday the central bank will respond “as appropriate” to the risks posed by a global trade war and other recent developments, remarks that seemed to open the door to the possibility of a rate cut.

The U.S. central bank meets June 18-19.

“The Fed can blunt the impact of a slowdown from trade taxes. It probably cannot stop a slowdown from trade taxes,” UBS analysts said in a note.

DOLLAR: The dollar index was slightly firmer by the LME close, having recovered after earlier falling to an eight-week low.

A stronger U.S. currency makes dollar-denominated commodities more expensive for holder of other currencies, which could potentially crimp demand. This is a relationship used by funds to generate buy and sell signals from numerical models.

CHINA: Metals markets are looking ahead to industrial production and investment data from China for clues to demand prospects over coming months.

G20: Also on the radar is a meeting of the Group of 20 nations in Japan over the weekend, where trade tensions will be a major topic of discussion.

NICKEL: Nickel, untraded in closing rings, was down 0.8% at $11,720 a tonne in electronic activity at 1600 GMT, the lowest since Jan. 24. It slipped on worries about weaker demand from the stainless steel sector, which accounts for two-thirds of global demand estimated at around 2.4 million tonnes.

Also weighing on nickel are increases in stocks in LME-approved warehouses, which have been on a downtrend since late 2017. Latest data shows stocks are up 5,136 tonnes at 164,052.

PRICES: Aluminium finished 0.8% weaker at $1,771 a tonne, zinc ceded 0.6% to end at $2,461.50, lead added 1% to $1,865 and tin rose 0.4% to $19,175.

Reporting by Pratima Desai; Editing by Jan Harvey and Kirsten Donovan

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