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METALS-Copper, base metals slip as Fed rates outlook boosts dollar
September 18, 2014 / 10:11 AM / 3 years ago

METALS-Copper, base metals slip as Fed rates outlook boosts dollar

* Dollar rises to six-year high against yen

* U.S. jobless claims fall more than expected

* Zinc mine output up, price seen falling to $2,200 (Updates with closing prices)

By Harpreet Bhal and Eric Onstad

LONDON, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Copper and other base metals slipped on Thursday, pressured by renewed weakness in China’s property market and by a sharp rise in the dollar after the U.S. Federal Reserve signalled interest rates could rise faster than expected.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME), which failed to trade in closing open outcry activity, was last bid down 1.3 percent at $6,840 a tonne, reversing small gains in the previous session.

The U.S. central bank on Wednesday renewed its pledge to keep interest rates near zero for a “considerable time”, but also indicated it could raise borrowing costs faster than expected when it starts moving.

The outlook for future interest rates lifted the dollar to a more-than a six-year high against the yen. A rising dollar makes commodities priced in the U.S. unit more expensive for holders of other currencies.

“We think the dollar will appreciate further against the euro and so this will continue to put pressure on metals prices,” said Daniel Briesemann, an analyst at Commerzbank.

Copper prices have lost momentum since hitting a one-week high at $6,992 a tonne earlier this week, but are still well above a 12-week low of $6,734 hit on Sept. 11.

“If U.S. economic numbers continue on the better side, then guess what? The December (Federal Reserve) meet is going to be hawkish, which would be dollar-favourable, which would be mostly negative for commodities,” said analyst Dominic Schnider of UBS Wealth Management in Singapore.

Data on Thursday pointed to a firming labour market as U.S. jobless claims fell 36,000 last week, more than expected.

ZINC TO FALL FURTHER?

Also putting pressure on copper prices was a decline in China’s new home prices in August for a fourth straight month, underlining a deepening downtrend in the property market that is increasingly weighing on the broader economy.

After a strong performance in 2013, China’s real estate market has softened as sales have slowed and banks have become increasingly cautious about lending to developers and home buyers.

“Data showing a weak property sector in China is also weighing on the market. This negative data shows the concerns about China are not going away anytime soon,” Briesemann said.

Zinc edged down 0.2 percent to close at $2,264 a tonne.

Caroline Bain, senior commodities economist at consultancy Capital Economics, said in a note that zinc’s rally of about 10 percent so far this year, spurred by bets that mine closures would create shortages, has been premature.

She noted that data published on Wednesday by the International Lead and Zinc Study Group said mined zinc output grew 2.3 percent year-on-year in the first seven months of the year, compared to growth of just 0.5 percent last year.

“We retain our forecast that zinc prices will fall further, to $2,200 per tonne by year end,” Bain said.

Aluminium finished down 0.9 percent at $1,981.50 a tonne after touching $1,980.25, the weakest since Aug. 4, and lead slid 1.3 percent to $2,080 after touching a three-month low of $2,072.75.

Nickel shed 1.0 percent to end at $17,905 a tonne.

Tin, which also failed to trade in closing rings, bucked the weaker trend and was last bid up 0.4 percent at $21,225 a tonne.

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

Three month LME tin (Additional reporting Melanie Burton in Melbourne; Editing by Susan Fenton and Keiron Henderson)

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