March 11, 2020 / 12:01 PM / a month ago

METALS-Lead, copper slide as stimulus fails to calm virus fears

* Lead falls to lowest in 44 months

* Virus infections slow in top metals consumer China

* BoE latest central bank to cut rates (Updates with closing prices)

By Zandi Shabalala and Eric Onstad

LONDON, March 11 (Reuters) - Lead prices slumped to the lowest since June 2016 and copper also eased on Wednesday as central bank stimulus failed to offset worries that the coronavirus outbreak will keep threatening metals demand.

Benchmark lead on the London Metal Exchange (LME) shed 1.7% to $1,765 a tonne in final open-outcry trading, the weakest since late June 2016.

Copper slipped 0.7% to end at $5,529 a tonne after touching a three-year low of $5,433 on Monday.

The virus, which has infected 80,778 people in China and killed 3,158, has hobbled manufacturing in the country and its spread has sparked fears of a global slowdown.

The Bank of England on Wednesday became the latest central bank to cut interest rates in an effort to stop the outbreak triggering a recession.

Capital Economics analyst Kieran Clancy said while the response from central banks was encouraging, the impact would be minimal without a significant slowdown in infections and rollbacks in government containment measures.

“On one hand it’s clear that central banks are throwing the kitchen sink at this virus, but all this support is a bit of a blunt instrument,” he said.

* ALUMINIUM SHORTS: The net speculative short position in LME aluminium has climbed to 26% of open interest, very close to this year’s peak of 28%, according to estimates by broker Marex Spectron.

LME aluminium dropped 1.3% to close at $1,675 a tonne.

* U.S TARIFFS: U.S. aluminium premiums could jump by 80% to about 25 cents a lb if President Donald Trump boosts U.S. tariffs in a bid to help domestic smelters ahead of the election, analyst Oliver Nugent at Citi said in a note.

U.S STIMULUS: The White House and Congress negotiated measures on Tuesday to bolster the U.S. economy and Americans’ paychecks against the outbreak’s impact, although there was no immediate sign of a deal.

JAPAN MEASURES: Japan announced a second package of measures worth about $4 billion.

CHINA AUTOS: Vehicle sales in China, the world’s top car market, tumbled in February as customers stayed at home and away from dealerships due to the epidemic.

METALS TRADING: The LME has made contingency plans to relocate or ditch open-outcry trading if the coronavirus outbreak worsens.

ZINC INVENTORIES: Zinc stocks in LME-approved warehouses MZNSTX-TOTAL gained 675 tonnes to 75,225 tonnes, close to seven-month highs set on Feb. 25.

They touched their lowest in at least 30 years at about 50,000 tonnes earlier this year.

PRICES: Zinc was the only LME metal in positive territory, gaining 0.6% to finish at $1,987 a tonne, while nickel gave up 2.1% to $12,420 and tin fell 1% to $16,700. (Reporting by Zandi Shabalala and Eric Onstad, Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, David Evans and Jan Harvey)

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