April 18, 2019 / 11:41 AM / a year ago

METALS-Zinc plunges as inventories and dollar climb

* GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl (Adds closing prices, quote)

By Zandi Shabalala

LONDON, April 18 (Reuters) - Zinc prices sank to a one-month low on Thursday after inventories in London Metal Exchange (LME) warehouses climbed and weak manufacturing data in Europe took the shine off base metals.

Base metals prices had jumped in the previous session after upbeat GDP data from top consumer China but fell on Thursday as the dollar rose and manufacturing activity in Germany shrank.

LME zinc inventories MZNSTX-TOTAL rose to their highest level in nearly two months, up 7,225 tonnes to 73,575 tonnes, according to exchange data.

"It's a broader weakness across base metals but zinc is definitely leading the way because stocks are up 11 percent," said ING analyst Warren Patterson.

"We still are looking at a deficit in the zinc market but it is reducing," he said.

LME zinc stocks have halved this year and touched their lowest since at least 1998 earlier this month due to bottlenecks in processing capacity, making the metal the second best performer in 2019.

Benchmark zinc finished 1.9 percent lower at $2,767 per tonne, after touching its lowest since mid-March at $2,751.

ZINC SPREADS: The premium of LME cash zinc over the three month contract CMZN0-3 was around $87 a tonne, down from a high of $120 touched a week ago.

TREATMENT CHARGES: Korea Zinc Inc and Teck Resources Ltd agreed annual concentrate treatment charges of about $245 a tonne, 67 percent higher than last year, as mine supply ramps up.

The agreement, along with higher spot treatment charges, is good news for smelters that have been struggling with low charges for years due to low mine supply.

"These are all signs that the concentrate supply picture is improving and that should feed through to the refined market eventually," ING's Patterson said.

DOLLAR: The dollar rose against a basket of currencies, making most metals it is priced in more expensive, including base metals.

ALUMINIUM CHINA: Shanghai aluminium prices breached the 14,000 yuan ($2,094) a tonne barrier for the first time in four-and-a-half months, a level considered an average break-even for struggling Chinese aluminium smelters.

SUPPLY: China Hongqiao Group, the world's biggest aluminium producer, will this year restart some of the smelting facilities it was forced to shut in 2017, two sources with knowledge of the matter said.

LME nickel fell to its lowest since late February at $12,625 a tonne, later moderating in electronic trading to trade down 1.7 percent at $12,655 a tonne by 1600 GMT.

PRICES: Copper shed 1.2 percent to $6,476 a tonne after touching its highest since July in the previous session. Aluminium touched a three-month low of $1,844.50 a tonne but ended 0.9 percent higher at $1,867.

Lead was down 0.3 percent at $1,941 a tonne, while tin fell 0.8 percent to $20,240.

HOLIDAY: The LME will be closed on Friday and Monday for Easter.

Additional reporting by Tom Daly; editing by John Stonestreet, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Kirsten Donovan

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