METALS-Copper steady as investors ponder U.S., Chinese data
By Silvia Antonioli LONDON, May 24 (Reuters) - Copper was little changed on Friday as investors weighed the potential impact on metals demand of upbeat figures on U.S. jobs and factory output versus data showing slower industrial activity in top metals consumer China. Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange traded at $7,280 a tonne at 1300 GMT, down only slightly from its close of $7,300 on Thursday. Data out on Thursday showed China's factory activity shrank for the first time in seven months in May, raising fears that its economic recovery has stalled. Partially balancing concerns about China, which accounts for about 40 percent of global copper consumption, data from the United States showed orders for long-lasting manufactured goods rose more than expected in April. U.S. data on Thursday also showed a bigger-than-expected drop in claims for unemployment benefits. "It seems positive data from the U.S. has helped, but the data on China yesterday was bearish," Sucden Financial analyst Kashaan Kamal said. "We've seen a gradual price decline since late January as concerns of slower growth have put pressure on prices, but this recent data highlighted the bearish outlook for both domestic and export demand." China's economy grew by a less-than-forecast 7.7 percent in the first three months of the year. Its imports of refined copper declined by more than a third in January-April, dragging down LME copper prices by 12 percent from this year's peak. TIGHTER SUPPLY Despite the weakness in its manufacturing sector, China is unlikely to launch any stimulus, with the economy still on track to grow by 7.5 to 8 percent this year, in line with government targets, Commonwealth Bank of Australia said in a note. "Incremental easing - for instance a more accommodative stance toward the property sector - is about all we expect might change," the bank said. Fundamentals, in the meantime, were providing some support to copper prices. Signalling demand for the metal may be improving, copper inventories in warehouses monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell 7.2 percent from last Friday to their lowest in more than seven months, data showed on Friday. Stocks in LME-registered warehouses also fell, daily data showed on Friday, posting a 2,700 tonnes decline to 621,175 tonnes, their lowest in two weeks. A production outage since a May 15 tunnel collapse killed 28 workers at Grasberg in Indonesia, the world's second-largest copper mine, should also support prices. A trade union official said on Thursday all investigations into the incident at the Freeport McMoRan mine must be completed before workers return. Jinchuan Group Ltd, China's third-largest copper producer, has shut a 200,000 tonne-a-year facility due to a raw scrap shortage, which could reduce its refined output by more than 16 percent this year, an executive said on Friday. Aluminium was at $1,849 a tonne from a $1,850 close on Thursday, and lead was at $2,050.75 a tonne from $2,045. Zinc traded at $1,852 a tonne from $1,856, tin at $21,135 from $20,950 and nickel at $14,807 from $14,940. Metal Prices at 1301 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 330.25 0.35 +0.11 365.25 -9.58 LME Alum 1848.00 -2.00 -0.11 2073.00 -10.85 LME Cu 7272.50 -27.50 -0.38 7931.00 -8.30 LME Lead 2050.25 5.25 +0.26 2330.00 -12.01 LME Nickel 14803.00 -137.00 -0.92 17060.00 -13.23 LME Tin 21075.00 125.00 +0.60 23400.00 -9.94 LME Zinc 1851.00 -5.00 -0.27 2080.00 -11.01 SHFE Alu 14650.00 25.00 +0.17 15435.00 -5.09 SHFE Cu* 53000.00 160.00 +0.30 57690.00 -8.13 SHFE Zin 14530.00 90.00 +0.62 15625.00 -7.01 ** 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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