SHANGHAI (Dow Jones)--Base metals futures on the Shanghai Futures Exchange plunged to multi-month lows early Monday amid broad weakness in commodities and equities markets after disappointing U.S. employment data and fresh bad news about the fiscal health of European economies.
Copper fell to its lowest since October, aluminum dropped to a 10-month low, and both copper and zinc hit their 5% daily trading limit-down.
Benchmark September copper traded last limit-down at CNY50,100/ton, while zinc was limit-down at CNY13,900/ton.
"Sharp declines in Wall Street (equities markets) on Friday and dollar strength against the euro indicated that investors are concerned over the U.S. jobs data as well as the euro-zone sovereign debt crisis, and that prompted Chinese investors to follow suit here," said Li Rong, an analyst with Great Wall Futures, who tipped copper's nearby support at CNY45,000/ton on chart-based cues.
A U.S. government report issued Friday showed the U.S. economy added jobs in May at the fastest pace in a decade, but the gains were due mostly to temporary government hiring for the 2010 Census and weren't enough to bring unemployment down much.
New worries emerged about Hungary's economy after a leading official in Hungary's ruling Fidesz party said Thursday that the country faces a sovereign-debt problem similar to the Greek situation.
"I think investors are battered now--they need to worry about the macroeconomic conditions at home and abroad but they also know a summer lull is coming along for metals like copper and zinc," said Ying Haoliang, an analyst with Great Wall Futures.
Monday's sharp declines were due mainly to liquidation of long positions, Ying said.
Adding to the fragile market sentiment, China's largest nickel producer, Jinchuan Group Co., cut its refined nickel price by 7% to CNY156,000/ton on Monday, after three-month London Metal Exchange nickel prices tumbled to three-month lows on Friday.
Jinchuan's price cut also indicated that "market participants are plagued by not only by poor macroeconomic conditions but also weak fundamentals--downstream demand isn't that good and spot sales are pretty weak," said Xu Aidong, chief nickel analyst with the state-owned metals consultancy, Beijing Antaike.
"Some stainless steel makers have already started maintenance this month, and more will follow suit," she said, adding that production cuts at Chinese stainless steel makers in the second half of this year are "very likely."