October 17, 2019 / 12:00 PM / a month ago

METALS-Copper prices gain as trade negotiators firm up U.S.-China deal

* GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl (Updates with closing prices, U.S data, tin smelter closure)

By Zandi Shabalala

LONDON, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Copper inched higher on Thursday as negotiators from the United States and China worked on firming up the first phase of a trade deal as part of efforts to end a protracted dispute.

The tit-for-tat trade war has rocked global markets, disrupted supply chains and sapped demand for metals. China accounts for nearly half of global copper consumption.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said late on Wednesday that U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators were working on nailing down the text of the Phase 1 deal for their presidents to sign next month.

“All eyes are on the trade war at the moment and little else matters,” said BMO Capital Markets analyst Kash Kamal.

“The moves we are seeing in metals aren’t very big... the market is thinking let’s get this mini-deal from last week ratified before any real excitement.”

Meanwhile, China’s Commerce Ministry said on Thursday it sought a phased agreement in the 15-month-long dispute and hoped to cancel tariffs as soon as possible.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange gained 0.2% to $5,739 a tonne in final open-outcry trading.

U.S. MANUFACTURING: U.S. manufacturing output fell more than expected in September, hampered by a strike at General Motors, and the outlook for factories remained weak amid slowing global growth and unresolved trade tensions.

COPPER: China’s top copper smelters on Thursday lifted their floor treatment and refining charges for the fourth quarter of 2019 by 20% from the previous quarter.

COPPER SUPPLY: MMG Ltd said copper production from its Las Bambas operation in Peru would be marginally below guidance due to a blockade by locals.

CODELCO: The world’s largest copper producer has dropped a 2017 plan to sell “green copper” at a premium price to customers using more sustainable practices like renewable energy and recycled water to cut its carbon footprint.

STOCKS: LME nickel inventories slid to their lowest in more than seven years, with headline stocks falling 2,760 tonnes to 88,302 tonnes, the lowest since December 2011. MNISTX-TOTAL

NICKEL: The global nickel market deficit narrowed to 100 tonnes in August from a shortfall of 7,000 tonnes in the previous month, the International Nickel Study Group said.

LME nickel ended 1.1% lower at $16,270 a tonne, its lowest since Aug. 29.

TREATMENT CHARGES: Zinc treatment and refining charges are expected to remain at high levels due to rising mine supply from Australia and South Africa, industry participants said this week at a gathering in China.

TIN CLOSURE: China’s Yunnan Tin said its smelting unit will halt production from Oct. 21 for up to 50 days for maintenance, hitting about 10% of output.

LME tin ended 1.8% higher at $17,150 a tonne, after touching a near one-month high.

PRICES: LME aluminium ended 0.1% lower at $1,727 a tonne, zinc added 0.2% to $2,439 and lead rose 1.4% to $2,190. (Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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