(MB) Base metals traded on the Shanghai Futures Exchange were broadly weaker during Asian morning trading on Thursday March 15, with heavy losses seen in nickel and zinc prices, while lead was the only metal to push higher. Disappointing US data overnight and dovish speech from European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi has dented market optimism over the global growth outlook, prompting metals prices to drop this morning. US retail sales fell unexpectedly in February – marking the third consecutive monthly decline. Overall sales fell 0.1% against an expected rise of 0.3%. Meanwhile, the dovish tone struck by the ECB’s Draghi overnight also dampened the market’s upbeat view over global economic growth. ECB President Draghi noted that recent gains the euro “weren’t all warranted by economic fundamentals.” He also noted that the ECB is more confident on “inflation converging towards our aim over the medium term”, but that further evidence is needed. Accordingly, monetary policy “will remain patient, persistent and prudent.” Zinc and nickel fared the worst of the SHFE base metals complex, with the former being affected by large deliveries of the metal entering London Metal Exchange warehouses this month. “Zinc is down on account of another 10,000-tonne increase in LME stock holdings. Zinc stocks have now jumped by nearly 60% since the beginning of the month,” INTL FCStone analyst Ed Meir said on Wednesday. Meanwhile, nickel prices have come under pressure from growing concerns that stainless steel mills in China may halt production in the near term due to shrinking profit margins. The most-traded July nickel contract on the SHFE stood at 104,160 yuan ($16,484) per tonne as of 10.58am Shanghai time, down by 0.7% or 690 yuan per tone compared with Wednesday’s close. “With prices for stainless steel raw materials like nickel and ferro-chrome both up recently, the cost to produce stainless steel has risen, shrinking mills profits. This may push stainless steel mills to halt production,” according to China’s Galaxy Futures. “Investors should now be paying attention to the lower levels of refined nickel stocks on the LME as well as the higher stainless steel stocks that have accumulated in the Chinese market. These two stock levels are the main indicators to keep an eye on for determining which way [nickel] prices will trend,” Galaxy Futures added. The increased stainless steel production during the first quarter of 2018 – particularly from Indonesia – has also added to the headwinds facing the Chinese domestic stainless steel industry, according to analysts with Macquarie.


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