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Copper rises as traders look past rising coronavirus deaths

Kitco News

(Recasts, updates prices)

By Peter Hobson

LONDON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Copper and other industrial metals prices rose on Thursday as traders shrugged off figures showing thousands more coronovirus cases and attention moved to the potential for China's efforts to stop the spread of the virus to disrupt supply.

The outbreak has depressed economic activity in China, the world's largest industrial centre, driving down metals prices. Using a new method of diagnosis, China's 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.

But excluding cases confirmed using the new methods, the number of new cases rose by only 1,508. 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 0.6% higher at $5,797.50 a tonne at 1512 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 reflected 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 added.

Clancy 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 production - something that could support prices. China is the world's biggest metals producer and consumer.

MARKETS: Global equities fell and China's yuan weakened.

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.

MINERS: Rio Tinto , which runs the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in Mongolia, said its copper concentrate shipments to China had slowed. Griffin Mining said it was returning essential staff to its Caijiaying mine in China to resume 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.

U.S. ECONOMY: Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday reiterated his confidence in the U.S. economic outlook.

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

OTHER METALS: LME aluminium was up 0.5% at $1,745.50 a tonne, zinc was 1.8% higher at $2,185.50 a tonne, nickel rose 1.2% to $13,250, lead gained 1.9% to $1,888.50 and tin was up 0.2% at $16,530.

(Reporting by Peter Hobson; Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by David Goodman and Mark Potter)

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