By David Hodari and Amrith Ramkumar
Copper prices fell for the fourth straight session Friday, as swelling inventories pushed the base metal to its worst week since November 2014 and its lowest close since mid-December.
Front-month copper for February delivery declined 1.5%, to $3.0245 a pound, on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices are 8% off their four-year highs hit in late December, and have gotten hit hard this week with stocks and other risk assets falling and a rise in inventories around the world.
Copper's price weakness came from building stocks in London Metal Exchange-licensed warehouses, some analysts said. LME inventories are up 22% so far this week, at their highest level since September 2016, according to Alastair Munro, a broker at Marex Spectron.
The industrial metal's recent declines have come as stocks around the world have had their worst week in years. Some investors have said the stock-market volatility could be affecting appetite for riskier assets like commodities. On Tuesday and Friday, the days following more than 1,000-point declines for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, base metals have also fallen.
"We are seeing the same pattern play out this time around as well, although not with the same intensity as what we saw earlier in the week, " said Edward Meir, a strategist at INTL FCStone, in a note to clients.
Oil prices have also tumbled this week, weighing on copper because many investors trade the two commodities in a single basket. U.S. crude was down 3.1% Friday, bringing this week's losses to 9.5%.
Investors will be keeping an eye on economic data out of China moving forward, as the country is the world's largest consumer of industrial metals. Some analysts expect trading activity to pick up after the Lunar New Year holiday late next week.
Some investors still see robust global economic growth and the possibility of supply disruptions with mining labor contracts up for renegotiation supporting copper prices moving forward.
Among precious metals, front-month gold for February delivery closed down 0.3%, to $1,313.10 a troy ounce, its fifth day of declines in the last six sessions. The dollar rebounding from multiyear lows has weighed on the precious metal by making it and other commodities more expensive for overseas buyers.
On Friday, the WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of 16 others, was up less than 0.1%.
Some analysts have said concerns about how higher interest rates will affect gold prices have also hurt the precious metal, which struggles to compete with yield-bearing assets such as Treasurys as borrowing costs rise.
Write to David Hodari at [email protected] and Amrith Ramkumar at [email protected]