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LME METALS round-up - 24 August

The markets continued to watch the eurozone, the US and China for clues about whether to rise or fall. But the news from these various fronts was either good enough or inconclusive enough to preclude immediate action. So metal prices this week were mixed but stable.

0.6% - rise in US industrial production

Greece continued to cause concern about its ability to meet financial targets. It would remain prominent in despatches as the prime minister was due to meet Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande in coming days.

Merkel raised market hopes when she said that European leaders supported the European Central Bank’s promise to do “whatever it takes” to support the euro. But the bank was prompt to describe as “misleading” an article in the German weekly Der Spiegel which suggested that the bank might set limits on the spread between other countries’ and German bonds - which would effectively provide support for eurozone bonds under pressure.

US economic data was reasonably good this time round, making any immediate quantitative easing less likely for the time being.

Industrial production rose by 0.6% in July, according to the Federal Reserve, after having risen by 0.1% in both May and June. At the same time, capacity utilisation by industry rose to 79.3% from 78.9% in both of the preceding months.

Trade organisation Conference Board reported that the leading indicator index for the US economy increased by 0.4% in July to 95.8 (2004 = 100), following a 0.4% decline in June. And the preliminary reading of the consumer sentiment index prepared by the University of Michigan rose to 73.6 in August, up from a final reading of 73.3 for July.

An 8.7% year-on-year fall in foreign direct investment into China let the markets hope that the country might announce some stimulus measures. But a rise in sales of new homes in China in July made this very unlikely in the near future.

The precious metal markets, meanwhile, were following the aftermath of the shootings at the Marikana platinum mine in South Africa, where 34 striking miners were killed. The protest was still unresolved as MRW went to press, so much depends on how quickly the mine is working again.

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