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LONDON: Industrial metal prices eased on Monday as fears mounted that the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant would hinder global economic recovery.

The variant first detected last month has so far been reported in at least 89 countries, although the severity of illness it causes remains unclear.

The Netherlands has imposed restrictions to slow its spread and Germany was considering measures to contain the virus, triggering fears other countries would follow and put the brakes on economic activity.

Benchmark aluminium on the London Metal Exchange (LME) lost 2% to $2,670 by 1730 GMT, with liquidity tailing off as the year-end approaches.

“Investment sentiment softened today, driven mainly by the spread of Omicron,” said Daria Efanova, research analyst at Sucden Financial.

Further lockdowns could damage metals demand, said ING analyst Wenyu Yao.

DOLLAR: The US dollar firmed on safe-haven flows, making the greenback-denominated commodity more expensive for those holding other currencies.

US BILL: President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion domestic investment bill was dealt a potentially fatal blow on Sunday after a key senator said he would not support it.

COPPER: For the first nine months of the year, the copper market was in a 161,000-tonne deficit compared with a 239,000-tonne deficit a year earlier, the International Copper Study Group said.

ALUMINIUM: Global primary aluminium output fell 0.22% year on year in November to 5.497 million tonnes, data from the International Aluminium Institute showed on Monday.

CHINA ALUMINIUM: China’s aluminium imports have hit an annual record high this year with a month to spare, customs data showed on Saturday, as restrictions on power usage by domestic smelters underpin demand for overseas metal.

OTHER METALS: LME copper rose 0.2% to $9,460 tonne, zinc lost 1.2% to $3,347, lead shed 0.2% to $2,303, tin was down 0.6% at $38,195, while nickel fell 1.5% to $19,350.

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