July 3, 2018 / 1:27 PM / 5 months ago

METALS-Copper steadies near 9-month low, trade worries dominate

* Copper shorts on LME at 8 pct of open interest -Marex

* Cooling China growth weighs on industrial metals (Releads, adds closing prices)

By Yilei Sun

LONDON, July 3 (Reuters) - Copper prices hit nine-month lows on Wednesday on worries about global growth due to a trade spat between the United States and China, but a lower dollar and an equity market recovery offered some support.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange ended down 0.5 percent at $6,491 a tonne after earlier touching $6,490, its lowest since Oct. 5.

Prices of the metal, used widely in power and construction, have tumbled more than 10 percent since June 7.

Xiao Fu, head of commodity markets strategy at BOCI Global Commodities, said tensions between China and the United States will keep markets volatile. “Fears have not dissipated and will likely cap metals prices.”

DOLLAR: A lower U.S. currency makes dollar-denominated commodities cheaper for non-U.S. firms, which potentially could mean stronger demand for metals such as copper.

This relationship is used by funds which trade using buy and sell signals generated by numerical models.

COPPER SHORTS: Latest data from Marex Spectron shows speculative short positions in LME copper — bets on lower prices — on the LME at 8 percent of open interest, levels last seen in Sept. 2016.

TRADE DISPUTE: U.S. President Donald Trump has this year sought to renegotiate some of the United States’ trading relationships, in particular with China.

Trump has imposed tariffs on some imports, in turn sparking retaliatory action by other countries, raising fears of a global trade war.

DEMAND: China accounts for nearly half of global copper demand, estimated this year at around 24 million tonnes. The U.S. accounts for a smaller, but nevertheless significant 8 percent.

MANUFACTURING - Growth in China’s manufacturing sector cooled slightly in June as firms faced rising input costs and a decline in export orders amid an escalating trade dispute with the United States, a private survey showed on Monday.

CHINA GROWTH: “Somewhat softer economic growth in China – as evidenced by the slight fall in the unofficial PMI – can explain some of the weakness in industrial metals prices,” analysts at Capital Economics said in a note.

PBOC: China’s central bank moved to calm jittery markets after the yuan dropped through the psychologically significant 6.7 to the dollar mark, hitting its lowest in almost a year as anxieties over U.S. trade frictions deepened.

PRICES: Aluminium closed down 0.9 percent at $2,080 a tonne, zinc lost 1.2 percent to $2,789, lead rose 0.2 percent to $2,390, tin fell 0.5 percent to$19,655 and nickel slipped 0.9 percent to $14,425.

Additional reporting by Eric Onstad; Editing by Pratima Desai, Jane Merriman and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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