Aluminium slipped along with other industrial metals overnight on worries about demand as new COVID-19 cases emerged in China and more data showed how global economies have been battered by the pandemic.

Chinese health authorities called for vigilance on Tuesday after Wuhan reported a new cluster of cases while data showed that China’s factory prices fell at the sharpest rate in four years in April.

The key question is whether demand is returning, said independent consultant Robin Bhar.

“In China, things are coming back, but not back to normal yet. Outside of China is still moving very, very slowly out of lockdown,” Bhar said.

“This is why metals are hesitating. To be realistic, rallies aren’t really going to get established until we have a much clearer picture, and that’s not going to happen in the next few days or weeks.”

Benchmark aluminium on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was down 1 per cent at $US1,483 a tonne by 1600 GMT.

Copper edged 0.1 per cent down to $US5,252.50 a tonne after touching an eight-week high on Monday.

The metal, often used as a barometer of global economic health because of its broad industrial uses, has rebounded by a fifth since touching a 45-month low of $US4,371 on March 19.

The most-traded lead contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange jumped as much as 3.5 per cent to 14,340 yuan ($US2,022) a tonne, its highest since March 11, but LME lead slid 2.1 per cent to $US1,636.50.

The Shanghai price gains were fuelled after LME on-warrant lead stocks tumbled by a fifth to a three-week low of 56,900 tonnes, data released on Monday showed, indicating potential withdrawals in coming days or weeks.

Data on Tuesday, however, showed headline LME lead stocks edged up by 275 tonnes to 74,300 tonnes, the highest level since last September.

In China, lead stocks are estimated to have risen slightly in the past weeks but were still at low levels, lending some support to prices.

There is limited battery scrap in the market because people have driven less in recent months, said CRU Group analyst Dina Yu, adding that total lead stocks in China were about 9,000 tonnes last week, roughly 500 tonnes higher than in mid-April.

However, weak demand triggered by restrictions to curb the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to put a lid on prices of the metal used mostly in car batteries.

The premium of LME cash tin over the three-month contract rose to $US151 a tonne by Monday’s close, its highest since last June, indicating tighter near-term supplies. Tin dropped 0.3 per cent to $US15,200 a tonne.

LME nickel fell 0.3 per cent to $US12,315 a tonne while zinc shed 1.3 per cent to $US2,001.50.

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