Copper at 5-week high on trade talk hopes

Copper prices hit five-week highs on Wednesday after US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said a US-China trade deal was 90 per cent complete but gains were capped by concern about demand in top consumer China.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange closed down 0.9 per cent at $US5,988 a tonne.

Prices of the metal used widely in the power and construction industries earlier touched $US6,063.50 - the highest since May 21.

"There is a lot of volatility, copper is being led by the macro environment, the US-China trade war and its potential impact," said BMO Capital Markets analyst Kash Kamal.

"Macro headwinds are very real, the environment is very uncertain and investors are watching key indicators of demand such as industrial production in China."

US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will meet this week at the G20 summit in Japan hoping to calm their 11-month trade conflict.

"With this week's G20 and Citi's view of at least a truce/handshake, along with expectations of new stimuli from China's Politburo meeting next month, we are bullish copper," Citi analysts said in a note.

Earlier this month, China's economy flashed warning signs as industrial output growth in May unexpectedly slowed to a more than 17-year low and investment cooled.

Demand for base metals is highly correlated with industrial output.

China accounts for nearly half of global consumption of industrial metals, while the United States consumes nearly 10 per cent.

The Chinese government will roll out more measures to cut financing costs for smaller companies, state television reported on Wednesday, citing the cabinet amid expectations of additional stimulus by Beijing authorities to boost growth.

A firmer US currency making US-dollar-denominated metals more expensive for importers in other currencies was also weighing on prices.

This is a relationship used by funds to generate buy and sell signals using numerical models.

Labour unions at Chile's Chuquicamata copper mine voted on Saturday to reject the latest contract offer of government-controlled mining company Codelco, and to continue the week-long strike at the site.

"A prolonged strike would be bullish for copper but demand risk is still a concern," analysts at Jefferies said in a note.

First upside resistance for copper is at $US6,070, a Fibonacci retracement level.

This is followed by $US6,100, where the 50-day moving average currently sits.

Aluminium ended up 0.3 per cent at $US1,820, zinc was 1.5 per cent lower at $US2,506, lead fell 0.5 per cent at $US1,929, tin slipped 1.4 per cent to $US18,780 and nickel gained 1.5 per cent to $US12,490 a tonne.


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