(Adds quotes, details and updates prices)
By Mai Nguyen
SINGAPORE, March 31 (Reuters) – London copper prices hit near a one-week high on Tuesday as top consumer China surprisingly posted an expansion in its factory activities, but prices were set for the biggest monthly decline in eight-and-a-half years amid the fast-spreading coronavirus.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) rose as much as 2.2% to $4,872 a tonne, its highest since March 25, while the most-traded copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) hit a near two-week high at 39,600 yuan ($5,587.85) a tonne.
The Purchasing Managers’ Index for China rose to 52 in March from a record low of 35.7 in the prior month, official data showed.
“It definitely boosted some confidence about China’s increasing demand for commodities,” said analyst Helen Lau of Argonaut Securities, adding concerns of ore supply shortages due to virus containment measures outside China also supported prices.
However, the longer-term outlook for copper, often used as a gauge of the global economic health, is still seen under pressure.
“Now the question is whether China is able to export products to the rest of the world. You should not expect a big price rebound because so far we still don’t have any vaccine and the global virus infections continue to climb,” Lau added.
LME copper, despite the rally on Tuesday, was down 14.1% on a monthly basis, on track for its worst monthly decline since September 2011.
* OTHER PRICES: LME aluminium advanced 0.1% to $1,531.50 a tonne, as of 0433 GMT, nickel rose 0.1% to $11,330 a tonne, zinc fell 0.3% to $1,866 a tonne and lead increased 0.1% to $1,706 a tonne.
* SHANGHAI PRICES: ShFE aluminium rose 0.2% to 11,580 a tonne, nickel increased 0.3% to 92,850 yuan a tonne, zinc rose 0.6% to 15,190 a tonne and lead advanced 1.2% to 13,870 yuan a tonne.
* ALUMINIUM: Rio Tinto Ltd, will close one of the aluminium production lines at its smelter in New Zealand due to government restrictions there.
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Three month LME copper
Most active ShFE copper
Three month LME aluminium
Most active ShFE aluminium
Three month LME zinc
Most active ShFE zinc
Three month LME lead
Most active ShFE lead
Three month LME nickel
Most active ShFE nickel
Three month LME tin
Most active ShFE tin
ARBS ($1 = 7.0868 Chinese yuan)
Reporting by Mai Nguyen, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips