SINGAPORE London copper rebounded on Tuesday from a near two-month low hit in the prior session, with lower prices spurring some buying, but global growth worries could cap gains in trade dampened by one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States.
Sluggish growth prospects in the United States and Europe, a string of downbeat corporate earnings reports, a U.S. election and China's leadership transition in November have all combined to ward off investors while consumers are reluctant to lock in large orders, traders said.
The picture is not likely to change much until well into the new year, when China's new leadership has had time to settle in and formulate new policies to spark growth, they said.
"There is absolutely no appetite at the minute to pick up metals as an investment. In September QE3 came in and euphoria pushed prices up. But if you look at real data, it's not improving," said Dominic Schnider, head of commodity research at UBS Wealth Management.
"We probably won't get an acceleration in Chinese demand until March."
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange had climbed 0.51 percent to $7,738.50 a tonne by 0719 GMT, reversing losses from the previous session, when it plumbed its lowest since September 5, at $7,670 a tonne.
Prices, up almost 11 percent on the year by mid-September after Europe and the United States embarked on quantitative easing (QE) measures, have since given back almost all their gains, eroded by a flagging growth rate in China and Europe's festering debt problems. Copper is now up less than 2 percent on the year.
Quantitative easing tends to inflate the value of hard assets such as commodities, because the relative value of paper currency falls as more cash enters circulation.
The most-traded February copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell 0.18 percent to close at 56,480 yuan ($9,000) a tonne.
China is the world's top metals consumer, accounting for 40 percent of refined demand last year.
European stocks signalled a flat start, with Wall Street closed as investors digested mixed corporate results. MKTS/GLOB]
The storm Sandy roared ashore with fierce winds and heavy rain on Monday near the gambling resort of Atlantic City, New Jersey, after forcing evacuations, shutting down transport and interrupting the presidential campaign.
A slightly stronger euro against the dollar offered metals support, because a weaker dollar makes commodities cheaper for holders of other currencies. <USD/>
Still, with prices of most metals near 2-month lows on Monday, traders noted industrial buyers had been tempted out.
"There is clearly scope for further price erosion in the short term, but we think selective consumer buying will now provide some support," RBC Capital said in a note.
Consumption of refined copper in China will rise 5.5 percent to about 8.1 million tonnes next year as the economy picks up in the world's top consumer of the metal, a senior analyst at state-backed research firm Antaike said.
China's economy grew an annual 7.4 percent in the third quarter, leaving it on course for its slowest full year of growth since 1999.
China's Zijin Mining (601899.SS) (2899.HK) plans to expand its refined copper production by 50 percent to 300,000 tonnes a year from 200,000 tonnes, Chairman Chen Jinghe said on Tuesday.
In other metals, cash lead jumped to a $4 premium on Monday's evaluations, against the three-month contract, as battery makers sought scarce supplies of the metal ahead of the peak winter battery replacement season.
Costs to secure lead deliveries in Europe have doubled this month to their highest in four years as recyclers, hurt by soaring scrap prices, protect profits by producing less and asking ever higher prices from battery makers or merchants.
Base metals prices at 0719 GMT
Metal Last Change Pct Move YTD pct chg
LME Cu 7738.50 39.50 +0.51 1.82
SHFE CU FUT FEB3 56480 -100 -0.18 2.02
HG COPPER DEC2 351.35 1.90 +0.54 2.26
LME Alum 1899.00 2.00 +0.11 -5.99
SHFE AL FUT JAN3 15285 -85 -0.55 -3.53
LME Zinc 1840.25 15.25 +0.84 -0.26
SHFE ZN FUT JAN3 14680 -05 -0.03 -0.78
LME Nickel 16000.00 50.00 +0.31 -14.48
LME Lead 2015.00 7.50 +0.37 -0.98
SHFE PB FUT 15180.00 10.00 +0.07 -0.69
LME Tin 19951.00 396.00 +2.03 3.91
LME/Shanghai arb^ 34
Shanghai and COMEX contracts show most active months
($1 = 6.2436 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)