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Copper edges lower after coronavirus death toll jumps

Kitco News

(Updates throughout, adds LONDON dateline)

By Peter Hobson

LONDON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Copper prices edged lower on Thursday as China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of a coronavirus outbreak, reported a record rise in deaths and thousands more cases.

The virus and efforts to control its spread have hammered economic activity in China, the world’s largest industrial centre, driving down metals prices.

Using a new method of diagnosis, Hubei province said 14,840 cases were reported on Thursday and 242 people had died on Wednesday — taking total deaths in China from the virus to 1,367.

The number of new cases had appeared to be falling and the country’s senior medical adviser said on Monday the epidemic could end by April.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was 0.3% lower at $5,746 a tonne at 1200 GMT. Prices are down nearly 10% from four weeks ago but have recovered somewhat from a low of $5,523 on Feb. 3.

The higher Hubei numbers seem to be a result of a change in how the figures are counted rather than an acceleration of the virus’s spread, said Capital Economics analyst Kieran Clancy.

“That’s why we’ve seen a muted reaction,” he said.

He also said focus was now moving from the effect of coronavirus on metals demand to the risk that measures to control its spread would disrupt supply — something that could support prices.

MARKETS: Global equities fell and China’s yuan weakened, making dollar-priced metals more expensive for Chinese buyers.

CHINA CARS: China’s vehicle sales likely fell by almost a fifth in January, an industry group said.

LOGISTICS: China’s steel industry body has asked the government for help in overcoming transport disruptions caused by efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

RIO: Rio Tinto , which runs the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in Mongolia, said its copper concentrate shipments to China had slowed.

GRIFFIN: Griffin Mining said it was returning essential staff to its Caijiaying mine in China to restart operations.

ZINC: Henan Yuguang Gold and Lead, one of China’s biggest lead and zinc producers, said it had closed half of its 300,000 tonnes per year zinc smelting capacity.

FED: Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday reiterated his confidence in the U.S. economic outlook, even as he said he expected some drag “soon” from China’s new coronavirus epidemic.

COPPER TECHNICALS: Support was at $5,707, the uptrend line from copper’s Feb. 3 low, brokers Marex Spectron said.

OTHER METALS: LME aluminium was down 0.4% at $1,730 a tonne, zinc was 0.7% higher at $2,164, nickel rose 0.1% to $13,115, lead gained 0.4% to $1,862 and tin was up 0.1% at $16,515.

Reporting by Peter Hobson; Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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