METALS-Copper slips on stronger dollar, Chinese demand in focus

Mon Jan 14, 2013 12:22pm EST

* Dollar up modestly against basket of currencies
    * Higher global supply, soft China imports to keep copper in ranges
    * Coming Up: Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke speaks; 2100 GMT

    By Maytaal Angel and Harpreet Bhal
    LONDON, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Copper prices slipped on Monday, dragged lower by
a slight rise in the dollar against a basket of currencies, but further falls
were kept in check by better economic growth prospects in top consumer China. 
    Three-month copper futures on the London Metal Exchange ended at
$8,000 a tonne, down 0.5 percent from Friday's close of $8,045, when the price
fell as much as 1 percent.
    Metals were pressured as the dollar inched higher against a basket of
currencies. A strong dollar makes commodities pried in the U.S. unit more
expensive for holders of other currencies.
    Keeping sentiment positive, however, were expectations of healthy demand
from top copper consumer China after data showed stronger-than-expected exports
and imports in December. 
    China accounts for as much as 40 percent of global copper demand.
  
    "The fact that some macro data from China has been more constructive is a
positive for the copper demand outlook. That's key for the first few months but
as the year unfolds people are anticipating an increase in copper supply," said
Macquarie analyst Duncan Hobbs. 
    Copper hit a 2-1/2-month high near $8,300 early in January as risk assets
rose after the United States averted a fiscal crisis of steep tax increases and
spending cuts. 
    Prices have since retreated on expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve
may rein in easing measures sooner than expected, and ahead of more U.S. debt
ceiling negotiations that are set to take place in coming months.
    Markets are likely to have their eye on a speech later in the day by Fed
Chairman Ben Bernanke.
    Markets will likely not do much today as the Federal Reserve Chairman Ben
Bernanke... may address the issue stirred up by the most recent Fed minutes
whereby a growing number of governors were pushing for a retrenchment in the
Fed's balance sheet," said Edward Meir, analyst at INTL FCStone. 
    "We should remain relatively range-bound until then." 
    
    CHINESE STOCKPILES WEIGH
    Weighing on copper were weak Chinese imports, with data last week showing
they fell 6.6 percent in December from the previous month, indicating the
country is well stocked. 
    Analysts estimate copper stocks in bonded warehouses in China are anywhere
between half a million to over a million tonnes. Copper stocks on the Shanghai
Futures exchange are near their highest since late April 2012. 
    "Given record high levels of inventory at bonded warehouses, we believe it
could take some time for China to destock copper as our inventory model reveals
that destocking activity has been quite modest," Deutsche Bank said in a note.
    China's gross domestic product data, due out on Friday, will be key as
investors seek confirmation of whether the world's No. 2 economy snapped seven
quarters of slower growth in the fourth quarter.
    A Reuters poll expects China's economic growth to have quickened to 7.8
percent in the fourth quarter from 7.4 percent in July-September.  
    "Chinese inflation numbers (have) surprised to the upside. This is spurring
concerns that authorities might adopt more restrictive economic policies. In
this context, the focus this week will be on Chinese industrial production and
GDP growth. Further evidence that Chinese growth has bottomed should help to
lift sentiment again," said Credit Suisse in a note.
    Soldering metal tin ended at $24,750 a tonne from a last bid of
$24,900 on Friday, while aluminium traded at $2,054 from $2,097.50. Zinc
, used in galvanizing, was untraded at the close but bid at $1,996 from
Friday's $2,015.  
    Battery material lead ended at $2,295 a tonne from $2,305, while
stainless-steel ingredient nickel ended at $17,255 from Friday's close
of $17,550.
 Metal Prices at 1711 GMT
 Comex copper in cents/lb, LME prices in $/T and SHFE prices in yuan/T
  Metal            Last      Change  Pct Move   End 2012   Ytd Pct
                                                              move
  COMEX Cu       363.00       -1.65     -0.45     365.25     -0.62
  LME Alum      2054.00      -43.50     -2.07    2073.00     -0.92
  LME Cu        8002.25      -42.75     -0.53    7931.00      0.90
  LME Lead      2295.00      -10.00     -0.43    2330.00     -1.50
  LME Nickel   17300.00     -250.00     -1.42   17060.00      1.41
  LME Tin      24756.00      101.00     +0.41   23400.00      5.79
  LME Zinc      1998.00      -17.00     -0.84    2080.00     -3.94
  SHFE Alu     15235.00      -15.00     -0.10   15435.00     -1.30
  SHFE Cu*     58320.00       70.00     +0.12   57690.00      1.09
  SHFE Zin     15370.00        5.00     +0.03   15625.00     -1.63
A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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