Industrial metals prices have fallen, with copper down more than 2.0 per cent as a collapse in oil prices rattled investors, pushing global stock markets lower and the dollar higher.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was 2.7 per cent lower at $US5,045 a tonne, down from Monday’s one-month high of $US5,248.

Prices of the metal used in power and construction had rebounded from $US4,371 – a four-year low – in March on hopes that the worst of the coronavirus crisis may have passed, particularly in China, the biggest metals user.

“It looks like a typical risk off day,” said Julius Baer analyst Carsten Menke. “

After the recent rally you don’t need a big excuse to take profit,” he said.

Global stock markets slumped and benchmark Brent oil plunged as much as 30 per cent after US oil futures on Monday turned negative for the first time.

The US dollar rose back towards last month’s three-year highs, making metals costlier for buyers with other currencies.

Australia’s economy will shrink 10 per cent in the first half of 2020, the governor of its central bank said, while South Korean exports plunged nearly 27 per cent in the first 20 days of April.

The mood among German investors improved in April, a survey showed on Tuesday.

In China, the biggest market, where industry is reopening, Yangshan copper import premiums rose to $US84 a tonne, up from $US55 in February and the highest since September.

China’s refined copper output fell to 771,000 tonnes in March, the lowest since May 2019. Lead and zinc production also declined.

Copper smelting fell globally in March, an index based on satellite surveillance of copper plants showed.

Copper inventories in Shanghai Futures Exchange warehouses have fallen to 303,366 tonnes from a four-year high above 380,000 tonnes last month. Stocks in Chinese bonded warehouses have also dipped.

LME copper inventories at 264,725 tonnes are around six-month highs, while the discount for cash copper versus three-month metal at $US34.50 is the highest since October, pointing to ample nearby supply.

The net speculative short position in LME copper fell to 15.6 per cent of active contracts on Friday from 26 per cent on April 1, brokers Marex Spectron said.

BHP said on Monday it expected a delay in the expansion of its Spence copper mine in Chile, while Glencore said it could reopen its subsidiary Mopani Copper Mines in Zambia.

LME aluminium was down 0.8 per cent at $US1,490.50 a tonne, zinc fell 1.7 per cent to $US1,914, nickel slipped 2.3 per cent to $US12,225, lead lost 1.5 per cent to $US1,663.50 and tin was down 2.5 per cent at $US14,840.

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