By Mai Nguyen
SINGAPORE, March 27 (Reuters) - Lead prices rose on Friday to their highest in more than a week, as halting of operations by some suppliers raised worries, while improving demand in China also lent support.
Three-month lead on the London Metal Exchange (LME) rose as much as 2.1% to $1,721 a tonne, its highest since March 17 and on track for its first weekly gain in three weeks.
The most active lead contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) climbed to as high as 13,895 yuan ($1,964.51) a tonne, also the highest since March 17, before easing to close at 13,845 yuan a tonne, up 2%.
Sumitomo Corp will temporarily suspend its San Cristobal silver-zinc-lead mine, while Recylex closed its Weser-Metall lead plant and Trevali halted works at its Caribou zinc-lead-silver mine for now.
Low stocks and better demand in China also supported prices.
“Many secondary lead smelters are still underutilised now, due to the short supply of battery scraps, while demand has been recovering in recent weeks,” said analyst Dina Yu of CRU Group.
Lead stocks in warehouses tracked by the ShFE PB-STX-SGH were at a 4-1/2-month low by the end of last week at 22,514 tonnes, while inventories in LME-approved warehouses MPBSTX-TOTAL fell to 55,700 tonnes, their lowest since March 10, latest data showed.
Market sentiment was also supported by hopes of further stimulus by major countries to cushion the economic fallout from the pandemic.
However, it is unclear how long the price rally can last as demand from end-users is seen weak while secondary lead smelters are increasing output, Yu said.
* PRICES: LME copper rose 1% to $4,849.50 a tonne by 0712 GMT, LME aluminium climbed 1% to $1,551 a tonne, while ShFE copper advanced 0.3% to 39,180 yuan a tonne and ShFE zinc climbed 3% to 15,385 yuan a tonne.
* COPPER: The closure of South Africa’s main export terminals to contain the outbreak would disrupt copper supplies from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.
* GLENCORE: Glencore PLC halted a number of smaller mines but added its larger operations were not materially impacted.
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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
Most active ShFE nickel
Three month LME tin
Most active ShFE tin
ARBS ($1 = 7.0730 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Subhranshu Sahu)