Base metals drop as investors weigh Fed path, China consumption

Base metals drop as investors weigh Fed path, China consumption
Base metals declined after the Federal Reserve pushed back on interest-rate cut expectations and as investors weighed the demand outlook in top consumer China before the Lunar New Year holiday this month.

The US central bank held interest rates steady for a fourth straight meeting on Wednesday. While Fed Chair Jerome Powell did signal an openness to monetary easing, he said he didn’t think it’s likely that the Open Market Committee will be confident inflation is moving sustainably toward 2% by next month’s meeting.

“The macro fundamentals have returned to neutral with tempered expectations for US rate cuts combining with frequent roll-outs of domestic measures for China’s economy,” Holly Futures Co. wrote in a note. “Still, overseas copper demand is weak and China is entering an off-peak season. Price volatility could continue before the Lunar New Year holiday.”

The world’s second-largest economy has been struggling to regain momentum even after the government introduced some stimulus measures. Manufacturing activity usually slows ahead of the week-long holiday, while the metals-intensive property sector is still mired in a prolonged slump.

Industrial metals have had a soft start to the year, with aluminum on the London Metal Exchange dropping 4.4% in January, the biggest monthly loss in eight months. Zinc also tumbled 4.9% last month, while copper gained just 0.6%.

On Thursday, copper slipped 0.9% to settle at $8,534.50 a ton on the London Metal Exchange, while aluminum dropped more than 1%. Zinc fell 2%.

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