* Cyprus reworks bank tax, delays vote
* CFTC speculative net shorts hit 4-year high
* Lead in 3,000 T surplus; zinc in 40,000 T surplus - ILZSG
By Maytaal Angel and Harpreet Bhal
LONDON, March 18 Copper prices dropped to a four-month low on
Monday, mirroring a pullback in risk appetite across financial markets, as the
euro zone's plan to part-fund a bailout of Cyprus by taxing bank deposits raised
fears about the region's economic stability.
Euro zone finance ministers demanded at the weekend that Cypriots pay up to
9.9 percent of their deposits as tax in exchange for a 10 billion euro ($13
The move broke with previous EU protocol that citizens' savings are
sacrosanct. The parliament of Cyprus was due to vote on the plan on Monday.
In a move that soothed some concerns, Cyprus ministers were trying to revise
a plan to seize money from the bank deposits before a parliamentary vote on
LME benchmark three-month copper earlier fell to its lowest since
Nov. 9 at $7,545.75 a tonne, but later pared losses to close at $7,576 a tonne,
down from a last bid of $7,751 on Friday.
European and U.S. shares also recovered some lost ground but remained in the
red, and the euro tumbled to a more than three-month low against the U.S.
A strong dollar makes commodities priced in the U.S. unit more expensive for
holders of other currencies.
"Cyprus will impact metals. The repercussions haven't even been fully priced
into forex and bond markets yet. The Cypriot parliament has to vote still,
difficulties in Cyprus could spread. This is what markets are now pricing in
after weeks of more settled conditions, or complacency arguably," said BNP
Paribas analyst Stephen Briggs.
Also a concern, LME stocks rose 18,100 tonnes to 543,925 tonnes, their
highest since February 2010. The copper market is expected to record a surplus
this year, after many years of structural deficit, a factor that is expected to
weigh on prices in the second half especially.
The metal used in power and construction is trading 4.2 percent lower in the
year to date.
"We believe the price slump suffered by base metals is exaggerated, and see
the currently low prices as an attractive opportunity to buy," Commerzbank
CHINA BUYING PROSPECTS
Market participants in China, which consumes 40 percent of the world's
copper, saw signs that the lower prices may encourage buying.
A trader based in Shanghai said some buying interest was seen in China
following the heavy price losses and a short-covering rally was possible.
"They will come back to buy on the cheap when the market stabilises
tomorrow, assuming that is around the $7,600 level," the trader said.
"Another few days' selloff might indicate a bottom, but the market is way
too short right now, so we shall see," he added.
Hedge funds and money managers raised their net short position in copper to
a fresh four-year high and added to their bullish bets in gold in the week to
March 12, Commodity Futures Trading Commission data showed on Friday.
In other metals traded, zinc ended at $1,919 from a close of $1,954
on Friday, having earlier hit its lowest in almost four months at $1,912 a
The global zinc market was in surplus by 40,000 tonnes in January, a monthly
bulletin from Lisbon-based International Lead and Zinc Study Group (ILZSG)
Aluminium ended at $1,936 from $1,965, having earlier hit its lowest
in four months at $1,927.50 a tonne, while lead closed at $2,185 from
$2,222, having earlier hit its lowest in nearly four months at $2,158.50 a
The global lead market was in surplus by 3,000 tonnes in January, the
ILZSG's monthly bulletin showed.
Nickel ended at $16,605 from $16,900 on Friday, while tin
ended at $23,100 from a close of $23,850.
Metal Prices at 1702 GMT
Comex copper in cents/lb, LME prices in $/T and SHFE prices in
Metal Last Change Pct Move End 2012 Ytd Pct
COMEX Cu 351.10 0.00 +0.00 365.25 -3.87
LME Alum 1934.00 -31.00 -1.58 2073.00 -6.71
LME Cu 7573.50 -226.50 -2.90 7931.00 -4.51
LME Lead 2180.25 -41.75 -1.88 2330.00 -6.43
LME Nickel 16603.00 -297.00 -1.76 17060.00 -2.68
LME Tin 23125.00 -725.00 -3.04 23400.00 -1.18
LME Zinc 1917.50 -36.50 -1.87 2080.00 -7.81
SHFE Alu 14685.00 -155.00 -1.04 15435.00 -4.86
SHFE Cu* 55300.00 -1710.00 -3.00 57690.00 -4.14
SHFE Zin 14870.00 -440.00 -2.87 15625.00 -4.83