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LME Premarket: Flat to lower start for metals, copper strike nears end

It was a flat to lower start to the trading day for metals priced on the London Metal Exchange Friday, with the ongoing strike at the world's largest copper mine, Escondida, reported to be nearing its end. 

"Workers are expected to return to work as soon as Saturday, having been on strike since February 9. Whilst the union and BHP Billiton have still not come to an agreement, they will instead extend their old contract, although under law this can only be for a maximum of 18 months," Dutch bank ING said in a morning research note. 

Three-months copper was spot bid on LMEselect as of 1020 GMT $4 lower at $5,821/mt with aluminum roughly flat, up $1, at $1,934/mt. 

"It would appear that disruptions to production that have been frequently cited as the reason for the high copper price are being resolved for the most part. Which makes it all the more surprising that the copper price is not falling. Many market participants are clearly continuing to focus on the improved demand prospects," Commerzbank said. 

Australian bank ANZ said the aluminum price had been helped largely by a continued draw-down in registered inventory. 

LME warehouse stockpiles had fallen for 18 straight days and were now 15% from their highs in January, it said. 

Looking at data Friday, total stocks fell another 8,850 mt to 1,945,800 mt. 

China's imports of aluminum waste and scrap rose 80.1% year on year to 170,000 mt in February, General Administration of Customs data released Thursday showed. 

The February import total was unchanged from January. 

Over January-February, China's aluminum waste and scrap imports totaled 340,000 mt, up 47.8% year on year. 

Three-months zinc was spot bid $9 firmer at $2,832/mt with lead down $5 at $2,362/mt. 

China's lead ore and concentrate imports fell 18.8% year on year to 100,000 mt in February. February imports were also down 9.1% from January. 

Over January-February, China's lead ore and concentrate imports totaled 210,000 mt, down 8.7% year on year. 

"Fed Chair Janet Yellen is on course to fulfil her promise of two more interest rate hikes this year after raising the target rate to 0.75%-1% at the most recent Fed meeting," LME brokerage Sucden said. 

Tin was spot bid $75 lower at $20,200/mt with nickel off $80 at $9,950/mt. 

There were no spot bids for either of the aluminum alloy contracts nor molybdenum. 

Cobalt was spot bid at $51,500/mt. 

All four closed the Thursday kerb untraded, basis three months.



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