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LONDON: Copper prices rose on Friday as the market worried about the cost repercussions for transporting industrial metals following the blockage in the Suez Canal, but new coronavirus lockdowns and the slow pace of vaccinations in the euro zone capped gains.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange traded up 2.1% at $8,962 a tonne at 1512 GMT. Prices of the metal used as a gauge of economic health by investors are down about 7% since hitting 9-1/2-year highs of $9,617 last month.

“Cost pressures emanating from the transportation side of the equation are contributing to today’s firmer tone in a number of commodity markets,” said ED&F Man Capital Markets analyst Edward Meir.

“The ship blockage in the Suez Canal remains a concern.” The Suez Canal stepped up efforts on Friday to free a giant stuck container ship and end a blockage that has disrupted global supply chains for everything from grains to baby clothes.

European nations including France, Switzerland and Norway have tightened restrictions to address rising coronavirus cases.

Copper stocks in LME registered warehouses at 123,800 tonnes are up 65% since late February.

But cancelled warrants - metal earmarked for delivery - at 30% and two companies holding large amounts of copper warrants are fuelling worries about availability on the LME market.

This is why the cash over the three-month copper contract is trading at a premium after a brief period trading at a discount.

The large premium for the cash over the three-month tin contract is due to major shortages for the soldering metal. The premium was last at $2,267 a tonne, having risen above $5,200 a tonne in the middle of February.

James Willoughby, analyst at the International Tin Association, said “news of a container ship blocking the Suez canal will not make good reading for European tin users already waiting for metal from Asia”.

Three-month tin climbed 1.8% to $25,650 a tonne. Aluminium rose 1.9% to $2,289 a tonne, zinc was up 2% to $2,826, lead added 2% to $1,959 and nickel gained 1.3% to $16,370.

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