METALS-Copper steadies; Cyprus, demand still a worry
* Cyprus parliament likely to reject plans agreed by eurozone officials * Euro falls to 3-month low vs dollar on Cyprus problems * Coming Up: U.S. house starts; 1230 GMT By Susan Thomas LONDON, March 19 (Reuters) - Copper steadied, but remained near four-month lows on Tuesday as equities and the euro sank versus the dollar on investor nervousness about a potential banking collapse in Cyprus. A lack of demand for copper by buyers in top commodities consumer China also worried investors, especially since prices were not far off their lowest for the year. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was $7,568 a tonne in official rings from $7,576 at the close on Monday. Copper earlier fell to $7,521.25 a tonne, its lowest since Nov. 9, from a session high above $7,600. "There's ongoing nervousness on the Cyprus situation and we're also getting bits of other data coming out which are slightly bearish," said Citi analyst David Wilson. "It's a poor macro overlay and then underlying fundamentals don't look great either." The euro fell, as did European equities, as Cyprus's parliament was set to reject a controversial bank deposit levy crucial for the country to secure financial aid, but which has raised fears of fresh euro zone instability. A weaker euro makes dollar-priced metals more expensive for holders of the single currency. "Last summer's on-again off-again European crisis seems to be rearing its ugly head again as in the past month we have seen worries over Spain and Italy re-emerge followed by the Cypriot debacle," RBC said in a research note. "With most things on hold till more clarity out of Europe materializes, we expect today to be soft, but do expect some type of recovery in the coming sessions." Also muting buying interest were China's near record-high domestic copper stockpiles. In LME-registered warehouses copper inventories were close to 9-1/2 year highs, and nickel stocks neared their highest since February 2010, signalling a lack of demand. WAITING IN VAIN Markets waited in vain for China to resume buying metals after its Lunar New Year holiday, and as its once in a decade leadership transition winds up and the seasonally strongest second quarter gets underway. "I think the hopes that China growth would accelerate this year seem to be diminishing. China is changing and you are not going to see these double-digit growth rates going forward," Wilson said. "A lot of the expectations over construction activity in China now I think are being scaled back. We're not now expecting any acceleration in infrastructure building." China accounts for at least 40 percent of global copper consumption, with the construction industry a particularly crucial source of consumption growth. Copper is used widely in construction and power cables. Recent Chinese government pronouncements on the property market add to the sense that manufacturing growth will be muted in 2013. Last week, People's Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said the bank would reinforce efforts to contain house price rises in 2013 as part of broad government efforts to restrain real estate speculation. A report showing U.S. housing starts rose, and new permits for construction climbed to the highest level since 2008, helped support copper, although the U.S. housing sector accounted for just 9 percent of global primary copper consumption last year. Commerzbank said in a research note that metals prices were considerably underperforming other cyclical commodities such as energy sources. "In our opinion the price slide is exaggerated and without fundamental justification. The current low prices offer attractive opportunities to buy," it said. Three-month tin, untraded in rings, was bid at $23,250 from $23,100 at the close on Monday. Zinc was $1,921 from $1,919, lead was $2,180 from $2,185, aluminium was $1,945.5 from $1,936 and nickel was $16,655 from $16,605. The global nickel market was in surplus by 17,000 tonnes in January 2013, a monthly bulletin from Lisbon-based International Nickel Study Group (INSG) showed on Tuesday. Nickel stocks held by producers were at 87,400 tonnes in December 2012, down from 83,700 tonnes in November. Metal Prices at 1318 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 341.90 0.05 +0.01 365.25 -6.39 LME Alum 1943.50 7.50 +0.39 2073.00 -6.25 LME Cu 7573.25 -2.75 -0.04 7931.00 -4.51 LME Lead 2186.00 1.00 +0.05 2330.00 -6.18 LME Nickel 16655.00 50.00 +0.30 17060.00 -2.37 LME Tin 23270.00 170.00 +0.74 23400.00 -0.56 LME Zinc 1923.00 4.00 +0.21 2080.00 -7.55 SHFE Alu 14655.00 -40.00 -0.27 15435.00 -5.05 SHFE Cu* 55000.00 -390.00 -0.70 57690.00 -4.66 SHFE Zin 14850.00 -45.00 -0.30 15625.00 -4.96 ** Benchmark month for COMEX copper * 3rd contract month for SHFE AL, CU and ZN SHFE ZN began trading on 26/3/07
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