METALS-Copper guarded ahead of Spanish bond auction
* Spain to auction two- and 10-year bonds * China may raise liquidity via open market operations, cut banks' required reserves * Coming up: U.S. jobless claims, weekly; 1230 GMT (Updates prices, adds quotes, details) By Carrie Ho SHANGHAI, April 19 (Reuters) - London copper futures eased on Thursday in cautious trade ahead of a key bond auction in Spain as growing worries of the resurgence of the euro zone debt crisis dimmed the outlook for global raw material demand. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange ticked up 0.3 percent to $8,070 a tonne by 0734 GMT, after ending flat on Wednesday. The most-active July copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange shed 0.3 percent t o 57,670 yuan ($9,100) a tonne, after gaining more than 2 percent in the previous session. "Copper prices haven't moved much as everyone takes on a wait-and-see attitude ahead of the Spanish bond auction," said Great Wall Futures analyst Li Rong. "Balancing this piece of potentially negative news are investor hopes that Beijing will inject more liquidity into the economy and further loosening monetary policy." Investors are eyeing an auction of two- and 10-year Spanish bonds later on Thursday. Spain's 10-year government bond yield shot above 6 percent earlier this week, raising fears the country would not be able to manage its public financing and would have to turn to a global bailout. Hopes for more Chinese monetary easing were also stirred by a report by China's official Xinhua news agency that the country may increase liquidity via open market operations and a cut in banks' required reserves to steer the economy to a soft landing. "There's a lack of trading direction today and that is reflected in the small movements in prices," said CIFCO analyst Zhou Jie. "As long as stockpiles remain high in China, copper consumers will continue to stay away even if prices slip. It's not a matter of price levels now, but a matter of confidence. We need something to boost morale - be it news of the economy picking up, or of stockpiles going down," he added. On a positive note, the head of the International Monetary Fund said member countries had committed $316 billion toward new IMF resources to help contain the debt crisis in the euro zone. But lingering fears over a slowing global economy remain, as data showed Spain's banks continued to battle sliding house prices and a looming recession. Their bad loans rose to their highest level since October 1994 in February, to stand at 8.2 percent of their credit portfolios. Things look bleak for holders of short positions for April delivery. According to the last report at London's 5 p.m. close, cash copper was bid at an $80 to $85 premium to the three months contract on Wednesday, down from $114 in the previous session. CMCU0-3 "The backwardation has eased but does not appear to have gone away as there is still tightness right through to April 27. It seems that the short positions have been rolled over to nearby dates," said one LME trader. "Since the backwardation is due to certain parties holding a dominant long position on the LME and not due to an actual pickup in real demand, I think the squeeze will persist into May," said a Singapore-based trader. Base metals prices at 0734 GMT Metal Last Change Pct Move YTD pct chg LME Cu 8070.00 20.00 +0.25 6.18 SHFE CU FUT JUL2 57670 -150 -0.26 3.67 LME Alum 2068.00 9.00 +0.44 2.38 SHFE AL FUT JUL2 16075 -35 -0.22 1.48 HG COPPER MAY2 364.60 1.50 +0.41 6.11 LME Zinc 2000.00 8.00 +0.40 8.40 SHFE ZN FUT JUL2 15470 -65 -0.42 4.56 LME Nickel 17792.00 162.00 +0.92 -4.91 LME Lead 2055.00 10.00 +0.49 0.98 SHFE PB FUT 15660 -75 -0.48 2.42 LME Tin 21052.00 52.00 +0.25 9.65 LME/Shanghai arb 1861 Shanghai and COMEX contracts show most active months ^ LME 3-m copper in yuan, including 17 pct VAT, minus SHFE third month ($1 = 6.3028 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Carrie Ho; Editing by Manolo Serapio Jr. and Ed Davies)
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