METALS-Copper comes off 3-week high ahead of Chinese data
* Investors await China trade data due on Wednesday * LME copper stocks lowest since early April * Near-record nickel stocks weigh on market By Maytaal Angel and Eric Onstad LONDON, May 7 (Reuters) - Copper failed to sustain a three-week high on Tuesday as investors nervously awaited economic data this week from top metals consumer China and due to persistent concern about global metals demand despite a recent decline in copper inventories. Chinese trade data will be released on Wednesday and traders expected it to show copper arrivals eased slightly in April. Inflation numbers are due on Thursday and money supply and loan growth expected from Friday. Copper prices may have over-reacted on Friday when they soared by more than 6 percent after a strong U.S. jobs report helped fuel hopes that an improvement in the world's largest economy would spur global growth, a London trader said. "We may have done a bit too much on Friday and now people are a bit wary about the Chinese data tomorrow," he said. "We really need to break through $7,400 to make more gains on the upside." Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) touched a session peak of $7,374 a tonne on Tuesday, the highest in three weeks, but failed to sustain the higher levels, closing unchanged at $7,265. Copper has lost 14 percent since hitting $8,346 a tonne in early February, the highest so far in 2013. Last month, copper hit its lowest in a year and a half following weak growth data from China. "The first quarter underperformance of Chinese growth has put many investors on the sidelines. (Meanwhile) the new government is looking for long-term rather than short-term solutions," ANZ analysts said in a note. "While we do expect Chinese demand to improve (this quarter), the stronger seasonal demand profile may end up being lukewarm." China is the world's top copper consumer, accounting for some 40 percent of overall consumption. Its refined copper imports fell 36.7 percent from a year ago to 218,823 tonnes in March, but the steep fall in London copper prices in mid-April has opened the window for Chinese imports, with benchmark LME copper currently trading at a discount of about $39 to its Shanghai counterpart. Still, some investors remained heartened by the decline in copper stocks in both Shanghai and on the LME. Shanghai stocks have declined to 213,782 tonnes, their lowest since late February, while LME stocks are at 604,600, their lowest since early April, having hit their highest in nearly a decade in late April. "We can (expect copper) closer to $8,000 a tonne this quarter. There's a lack of scrap especially in China, premiums have increased, there's a backwardation on Shanghai markets, things have tightened up because prices have been so low," said Societe Generale analyst Robin Bhar. He added, however: "This is certainly not the start of a new bull run, it's just a corrective bounce." STOCKS WEIGH ON NICKEL Nickel closed unchanged at $15,200 a tonne after earlier sliding by as much as 1.7 percent. Analyst Edward Meir at INTL FCStone said near record levels of nickel inventories would continue to weigh on the market. "Metal seems to be heading into warehouses that have not stored nickel in years, yet more evidence that exchanges are being viewed as buyers of last resort," he said in a note. "We cannot get too excited about nickel prospects over the short-term and once more normal conditions set in after Friday's bounce, we expect to see a $14,400 - $15,700 trading range set in over the balance of May." Aluminium ended virtually unchanged, down $1 at $1881 a tonne, while zinc ended 0.66 percent weaker at $1,872.50 a tonne and tin fell 1.22 percent to $20,200. Lead failed to trade in closing rings and was bid at $2,026 a tonne, down 0.6 percent from the previous close. Metal Prices at 1629 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 330.00 -0.75 -0.23 365.25 -9.65 LME Alum 1882.00 -17.00 -0.90 2073.00 -9.21 LME Cu 7276.25 11.25 +0.15 7931.00 -8.26 LME Lead 2032.50 -5.50 -0.27 2330.00 -12.77 LME Nickel 15175.00 -25.00 -0.16 17060.00 -11.05 LME Tin 20213.00 538.00 +2.73 23400.00 -13.62 LME Zinc 1873.00 -12.00 -0.64 2080.00 -9.95 SHFE Alu 14550.00 -60.00 -0.41 15435.00 -5.73 SHFE Cu* 52410.00 -480.00 -0.91 57690.00 -9.15 SHFE Zin 14525.00 -95.00 -0.65 15625.00 -7.04 ** 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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