* Nickel slides to 6-1/2 month low * Copper drops for nine consecutive sessions (Updates with closing prices) By Eric Onstad LONDON, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Copper fell for a ninth consecutive session on Monday, the longest losing streak in six years, as investors worried that a spreading coronavirus outbreak in China would hit demand in the world's biggest metals consumer. Copper tumbled to its weakest in three months, with other industrial metals also sliding as investors took flight. The death toll from the virus rose to 81 on Monday as the government extended the Lunar New Year holiday and more big businesses shut down or told staff to work from home in an effort to curb the outbreak. Copper, regarded as a bellwether of the global economy, has given up all of its gains since early December when a rally pushed prices up nearly 10% to eight-month highs as investors welcomed the first phase of a U.S.-China trade deal and hoped for a rebound in economic growth. "Chinese demand accounts for about 50% of the majority of base metals," said BMO Capital analyst Timothy Wood-Dow, noting the spread of the virus. "On Friday, we didn't know this, it seemed quite contained. Now this wider geographical spread is very concerning, so that's feeding through to the market." Wood-Dow added that Chinese economic growth could still hit 6% this year if the virus is contained, aided by the government's determination to bolster the economy. "Probably infrastructure investment will just be pushed back to later in the year." Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) dropped 3.1% in final open-outcry trading to $5,743 a tonne, its lowest since Oct. 18. LME copper last week posted its steepest weekly loss in five years, falling 5.5%, as the virus spread. "Fingers crossed we will get good earning reports this week from U.S. companies or else the panic selling will be even worse," said one base metals trader who asked to remain anonymous. FUNDAMENTALS * NICKEL: LME nickel prices shed 2.8% to close at $12,615 a tonne, its lowest since July 9. The net speculative short position on the LME had risen to 2.9% of open interest last Thursday, according to Marex Spectron estimates. "Whilst modest in size, this is a level not seen in nickel since January 2019," the broker's Alastair Munro said in a note. * LEAD STOCKS: On-warrant LME lead inventories- material not earmarked for delivery - fell to 50,025 tonnes, the lowest since July 26 last year, daily LME data showed. The premium for cash LME lead over the three-month contract rose to $12 a tonne, the highest since Oct. 31, indicating tighter supplies. It has moved from a discount of $21.25 two weeks ago. LME three-month lead slipped 2.5% to close at $1,892 a tonne after touching $1,870, its weakest since Dec. 9. * PRICES: LME aluminium finished 1% down at $1,764, its lowest in nearly six weeks. Zinc tumbled 4.3% to $2,240, the lowest since Dec. 16, and tin dropped 3.4% to $16,270, its weakest in nearly two months. * For the top stories in metals and other news, click or (Additonal reporting by Mai Nguyen in Hanoi and Zandi Shabalala in London; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and David Goodman)
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