Minmetals Resources expects global metal demand and prices to remain lacklustre amid a policy void ahead of leadership transitions and elections in the world's two largest economies. The overseas non-ferrous metals mining unit of the mainland's largest metals trader, China Minmetals Non-Ferrous Metals, said both the mainland Chinese and US economies were operating in "limbo land" in terms of major economic and industry policymaking. "From the president to the premier to chief executives of Chinese state-owned enterprises, in this period [ahead of the leadership transition], no one wants to make significant decisions," Minmetals Resources chief executive Andrew Michelmore said yesterday. "Either they don't want to mess it up, or they believe decisions should be left to the new people. It's the same in the United States, since no one knows who will be the next president." He spoke a day after his firm said first-half underlying net profit fell 41.7 per cent year on year to US$136.3 million. The figure excludes major one-off items. Despite his view that metal prices would remain under pressure, he expected prices of zinc and copper, two of the firm's main products, to be steady over the rest of the year. He believed prices of zinc - which protects steel from corrosion and is used in batteries - were near a low point in the current down-cycle, and the recent closures of smelters would lead to reduced supply and support for prices. But he said excess zinc production of 300,000 to 350,000 tonnes annually limited any upside in prices. On the London Metals Exchange, the three-month futures price of zinc is trading at about US$7,575 a tonne, down 13.3 per cent from the year's high in April. Copper is at US$1,856 a tonne, down 12.5 per cent from March.