LME’s metal trading hit lowest since 2010 despite record prices

Image courtesy of LME.

The London Metal Exchange’s trading volumes dipped to the lowest in more than a decade last year, marking a further slowdown in activity on the top industrial metals bourse even as prices hit record highs.

Volumes declined for a third year, extending a slump seen in 2020 amid falling industrial output and the closure of its open-outcry pit in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Fee-payable trading volumes in futures and options slipped 4.7% to 138.65 million contracts last year, the LME said by email.

The exchange partially reopened “the Ring” in September after an industry backlash against a plan to shutter it permanently. Still, with daily closing pricing sessions remaining electronic, volumes have fallen about 90% from pre-pandemic levels, and many brokers expect it will soon close for good.

The decline in volumes came even as the LME’s index of six main metals ended the year up more than 30%, the most since 2009, after touching a record in October. The bourse did see a pick-up in activity that month, with volumes jumping 19% year-on-year as plunging copper inventories and zinc smelter shutdowns sparked wild price moves. 

Still, trading was more muted in November and December.

(By Mark Burton)

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