COLUMN-Base metals hope for manufacturing recovery in 2020 – by Andy Home (Reuters U.K. – January 7, 2019)

LONDON, Jan 7 (Reuters) – Well, at least there was nickel. Looking back on 2019 it was nickel that provided most of the thrills and a fair share of the spills in the base metals complex.

The rest of the London Metal Exchange pack was largely moribund. Full-year performances ranged from up 5% (copper) to down 15% (tin) with aluminium, zinc and lead closing December barely changed from the start of January.

The obvious culprit for such a subdued performance was President Trump, given the pervasive uncertainty generated by the United States’ trade stand-off with China.

But deal-or-no-deal uncertainty simply added to the markets’ core malaise, namely the weakest synchronised demand performance since the bad old days of 2008-2009.

Usage flat-lined or fell across the metallic board with, again, the single exception of nickel. Lest electric vehicles bulls get too excited, nickel benefited not from its use in lithium-ion battery chemistry but from China’s super-strong stainless steel sector. Broad-based manufacturing weakness kept the metals in check last year.

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