April 24, 2020 / 10:47 AM / a month ago

METALS-Copper slips on worries about recession, virus drug trials

* Las Bambas mine gearing up to restart shipments

* LME nickel inventories hit highest since Sept 2018 (Updates prices, adds nickel surplus data)

By Eric Onstad

LONDON, April 24 (Reuters) - Copper prices retreated on Friday on fears about a deep global recession and pessimism over the development of drugs to treat COVID-19.

Some other base metals joined a downturn in stock markets after reports that an experimental antiviral drug failed to help patients with severe COVID-19.

Investors are also fretting about data showing how shutdowns have hit economies, including a survey released on Friday showing business morale crashed in April in Germany, Europe's largest economy, in its most dramatic fall on record.

"The economic data we've had has just been horrendous, they just indicate that we're facing a very deep contraction," said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank in Copenhagen.

"If we're going to have a deep contraction, then demand will be under pressure and that is keeping industrial metals markets from joining the exuberance we've seen in the stock market."

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was down 0.3% at $5,143 a tonne by 1700 GMT and was on track for its first weekly decline in four weeks.

Losses were limited in copper, widely used in power, transport and construction, due to expected declines in supply as some mines have been forced to shut due to the pandemic.

* RECESSION: The global economy will suffer its steepest contraction on record this year, with a likely U-shaped recovery, a Reuters poll showed.

* RESTART: MMG Ltd said it could restart copper concentrate shipments from the site of its Las Bambas operations in Peru to the port "as soon as next week".

* CHINA COPPER PREMIUM: The Yangshan spot copper premium for physical metal SMM-CUYP-CN has climbed to $87 a tonne, the highest since November 2018, as Chinese industry cranks up amid the country lifting coronavirus restrictions.

"The pace of China's restocking over the past few weeks has surprised market participants," Alastair Munro at broker Marex Spectron said in a note.

* NICKEL SURPLUS: The global nickel market surplus narrowed to 13,400 tonnes in February from a revised surplus of 13,900 tonnes in the previous month, data showed on Friday.

* NICKEL STOCKS: LME on-warrant nickel inventories - those not earmarked for delivery - rose to 176,556 tonnes, the highest since September 2018 and up about 40% so far this year, LME daily data showed on Friday. MNISTX-TOTAL

LME nickel gained 0.7% to $12,250 a tonne.

* ALUMINIUM: Banks' diminishing appetite to lend due to the coronavirus crisis will keep prices under pressure amid a ballooning surplus.

* PRICES: Aluminium added 0.5% to $1,518 a tonne, zinc rose 0.7% to $1,886, lead fell 1.2% to a one-month low of $1,626.50 and tin shed 0.7% to $14,890. * For the top stories in metals and other news, click or

$1 = 7.0785 Chinese yuan Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Mark Potter and Louise Heavens

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