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METALS-Supply squeeze pushes copper towards record highs

Copper prices continued to rally towards record highs on Monday as signs of extremely tight supply outweighed concern that slowing growth in top consumer China will impact demand.

Traders were paying huge premiums for quickly deliverable copper after stockpiles in the London Metal Exchange’s (LME) warehouse system tumbled to their lowest level in decades.

Benchmark LME copper was up 0.2% at $10,303.50 a tonne at 1110 GMT after reaching $10,452.50, within spitting distance of May’s all-time peak of $10,747.50.

Prices of the metal used in power and construction leaped 10% last week and are up and more than 30% this year after gaining 26% in 2020.

Copper’s short term direction will depend on whether high premiums bring more metal into LME warehouses, alleviating the supply squeeze, said independent analyst Robin Bhar.

He said it was not clear if low LME stockpiles point to a genuine shortage or if metal is available in private storage, but the copper’s longer term outlook was positive due to rising demand as the world moves from fossil fuels to copper-intensive electrification.

“The fundamentals are bullish,” he said.

LME STOCKS: On-warrant copper inventories in LME-registered warehouses rose to 21,050 tonnes from 14,150 tonnes, the lowest in decades, on Friday.

DOMINANT HOLDER: Exacerbating the squeeze, one entity controls between 50% and 79% of LME copper warrants, exchange data show.

SPREAD: The premium for cash copper over the three-month contract leaped as high as $371 a tonne, the highest in 30 years. MCU0-3

ShFE STOCKS: Copper inventories in Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) warehouses at 41,668 tonnes are the lowest since 2009. CU-STX-SGH

CHINA GROWTH: China’s economy grew by 4.9% in the third quarter, its slowest pace in a year, hurt by power shortages, supply chain bottlenecks and troubles in the property market.

OTHER METALS: LME aluminium CMAL3 was up 0.9% at $3,198.50 a tonne after touching $3,229, the highest since 2008, and zinc CMZN3 was down 0.8% at $3,765 a tonne having reached $3,944, it’s highest since 2007, on Friday.

Both metals have been boosted by supply cuts.

Nickel CMNI3 was up 1% at $20,210 a tonne, lead CMPB3 rose 1.4% to $2,371 and tin CMSN3 gained 1% to $37,555.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Peter Hobson Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen in Hanoi Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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