Copper prices fell on overnight as volatile markets and a hit to metals demand from the coronavirus pandemic eclipsed the boost from a massive US stimulus package.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange was down one per cent at $US4,805 tonne. The metal, used as a gauge of economic health, rose by five per cent over the last two sessions.

A $US2 trillion US bill aimed at helping unemployed workers and industries hurt by the coronavirus epidemic failed to rouse copper prices for long.

“So long as measures to contain the virus remain in place across much of the globe, there is nothing that policymakers can do to reverse the falls in copper prices,” Capital Economics assistant commodities economist Kieran Clancy said.

“That stimulus will only start to feed into stronger copper demand further down the line, once such measures are lifted.”

The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits surged to a record of more than 3 million last week as strict measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic brought the country to a sudden halt.

Mainland China reported no new locally transmitted cases of coronavirus for the sixth time in eight days but imported cases rose as Beijing ramped up controls to prevent a resurgence of infections.

Top copper miner Codelco said it would suspend construction of some projects including the Chuquicamata mine in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Sumitomo Corp will suspend operation at its San Cristobal silver-zinc-lead mine in Bolivia and its Ambatovy nickel mine in Madagascar to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

South Africa’s export terminals will close to mineral exports from midnight, when a nationwide 21-day lockdown begins, disrupting copper and cobalt supplies from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.

On-warrant aluminium stocks in LME-approved warehouses rose by 17,625 tonnes to 947,300 tonnes, the highest since December 20.

LME aluminium prices gained 0.5 per cent to $US1,545 tonne, after touching their lowest since 2016 at $US1,528.

The global zinc market flipped to a surplus of 35,600 tonnes in January, while the lead market deficit shrank to 3,100 tonnes in the same month, industry data showed.

Shops and local authorities in China are slashing prices and handing out millions of dollars worth of discount coupons to kick start the economy.

LME zinc gained 1.2 per cent to $US1,858 a tonne, lead rose 2.7 per cent to $US1,689, tin fell 0.8 per cent to $US14,180 while nickel dipped 1 per cent to $US11,175.

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