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October 2020 | Base Metals


Base metals, with the exception of lead, hold up well considering nervousness in broader markets

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Base metals prices on the LME and the SHFE were mixed this morning, Friday October 16, but overall were holding up well despite growing concern over the spread of Covid-19 across Europe and the United States.

* Despite the spread of the pandemic the markets seem to be assured that more stimulus will be forthcoming.
* EU passenger car registrations climbed 3.1% in September, compared with last year, but were down 28.8% over the January-September period.

Base metals
Three-month base metals prices on the London Metal Exchange were mixed and overall little changed. Nickel was the only one in positive territory with a 0.3% gain to $15,450 per tonne, while the rest were down by an average of 0.2%, with copper off by 0.1% at $6,775 per tonne. On the charts, however, prices are still up in high ground, with the exception on lead, which remains relatively weak.

The most-traded base metals contracts on the Shanghai Futures Exchange were mainly firmer, the exceptions were November lead and zinc, with the former down by 0.3% and latter down 5 yuan per tonne, while the rest were up by an average of 0.5%. November copper was up by 0.6% at 51,570 ($7,671) per tonne.

Precious metals
The precious metals complex was also mixed on Friday. Spot palladium was the main mover with a 0.4% gain to $2,362.40 per oz, while the rest were little changed with gold off by 0.1% at $1,905.30 per oz.

Wider markets
The yield on US 10-year treasuries has rebounded slightly and was recently quoted at 0.73%, compared with 0.71% at a similar time on Thursday.

Asia-Pacific equities were mixed: the ASX 200 (-0.54%), CSI 300 (+0.05%), the Hang Seng (+1.02%), the Nikkei (-0.27%) and the Kospi (-0.67%).

Currencies
The US dollar index resumed the rebound that started on Tuesday and was most recently quoted at 93.80, after 93.41 at a similar time on Thursday.

With the dollar firmer, most other major currencies were weaker, with the euro at 1.1706, the Australian dollar at 0.7076 and sterling at 1.2887, while the yen, at 105.25, was firmer.

Key data
Economic data out on Friday includes EU consumer price index (CPI) and trade balances for the EU and Italy. United States data includes retail sales, industrial production, capacity utilization, business inventories, the Federal Reserve budget balance, long-term purchases of Treasury International Capital (TIC) and data from the University of Michigan on consumer sentiment and inflation expectations.

In addition, there is an International Monetary Fund (IMF) meeting today.

Today’s key themes and views
The base metals prices on the LME, with the exception of lead, are holding up well and that suggests the market is upbeat about the prospects for strong demand from infrastructure projects and on the risk that the spread of the pandemic could once again affect production or logistics. Lead seems to be struggling as it is not seen as an infrastructure metal, although the roll out of 5G networks is likely to boost demand for back-up power batteries. We wait to see whether brighter vehicle registrations in Europe underpin lead.

Gold prices are meandering sideways as they continue to consolidate after the $600 per oz rally seen between March and August. Given that we are probably entering a volatile period ahead of the US presidential election, demand for havens may well remain elevated.

William Adams
Fastmarkets