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LONDON: Industrial metals faltered on Tuesday as rising cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 dampened the economic outlook for top metals consumer China, but supply concerns underpinned prices.

Benchmark prices for aluminium shed 0.8% to $3,292 a tonne by 1730 GMT, having slid by 4.7% in the previous session. Three-month copper was down 0.4% at $9,893.

China’s economy perked up in the first two months of 2022, with key indicators exceeding analyst expectations. However, a surge in Omicron cases, property weakness and heightened global uncertainties weighed on the outlook.

“There is a bit of risk-off sentiment in metals for the time being,” said T-Commodity’s Giancluadio Torlizzi. “We remain in bullish conditions for base metals; supply remains tight,” he added, saying the price declines would attract buyers looking for a bargain.

Concerns that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would interrupt metal flows and raise the cost of gas has boosted metals prices, especially of energy-intensive aluminium and zinc.

Russia produces about 6% of the world’s aluminium, 7% of global nickel and accounts for about 3.5% of copper supplies.

NICKEL TRADING: The LME will resume trading of nickel contracts at 0800 GMT on Wednesday March 16 after trading was halted a week ago following an unprecedented surge in prices.

ALUMINIUM SUPPLY: China’s daily aluminium output in January and February rose to its highest since mid-2021 despite pollution curbs in the heating season and during the Winter Olympics, with smelter hubs located away from Beijing maintaining operations.

UKRAINE: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to predict progress on peace talks, which are due to resume later on Tuesday by video link.

OTHER PRICES: Zinc shed 0.4% to $3,795 a tonne, lead was down 0.1% at $2,265 and tin climbed 1.5% to $43,230.

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