METALS-Copper pulls back after five-day rally as China weighs

Thu Jul 25, 2013 12:21pm EDT

* Strong EU, U.S. data not enough to offset China weakness

* Copper hit one-month high at $7,119 on Wednesday

* Goldman Sachs bearish on copper

By Silvia Antonioli and Harpreet Bhal

LONDON, July 25 (Reuters) - Copper fell back on Thursday after a five-day run-up that lifted prices to a one-month high, under pressure from concerns that a slowing Chinese economy may dent demand from the world's top consumer amid ample global supplies.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange, untraded at the close, was last bid at $7,010 a tonne, down from $7,055 at the close on Wednesday, when it touched a one-month high at $7,119. Copper, used in construction, is down 12 percent this year on weaker Chinese growth.

Data on Wednesday showed manufacturing activity in China at an 11-month low in July, pointing to more challenges for a country where year-on-year economic growth has fallen in nine of the last 10 quarters.

"We think that China is going to continue to be under a bit of pressure and that could weigh on the base metals market a bit more," said Natalie Rampono, commodity strategist at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

Better-than-expected industrial growth in the European Union, coupled with a rise in planned U.S. business spending and strong home sales data, only partially offset concerns about the slowdown in China, which accounts for 40 percent of global demand for refined copper.

"Once again, it is concern over China that is weighing on the (metals) group today, as yesterday's flash PMI number seems to be extending its shadow," INTL FCStone analyst Ed Meir said, referring to flash or preliminary U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index data from financial data firm Markit.

"Moreover, investors may be getting nervous that any Chinese government stimulus program ... may not be enough to stem the tide of weakening demand."

A projected surplus would also keep prices under pressure, Rampono said.

A Reuters poll released on Monday showed analysts forecasting a bigger global copper surplus of 153,000 tonnes in 2013, compared with 98,500 in the previous poll. The number is seen widening to 368,500 next year.

"Industrial metals are caught between a rock and a hard place. If you look at fundamentals we see supply additions everywhere and relatively high inventory levels," Credit Suisse analyst Tobias Merath said.

"The physical market remains relatively tight with premiums still elevated across the board, so that is somewhat limiting the downside. But if anything we would say that fundamentals have a bit of a negative bias, given (the) growth slowdown in China."

Investment bank Goldman Sachs said on Wednesday its "least preferred commodities" in the next 12 months were copper and iron ore, raw materials of which China is the biggest consumer.

Benchmark aluminium closed at $1,823 a tonne from $1,851, while zinc ended at $1,877.50 from $1,885 Wednesday's close. Lead ended at $2,070 from $2,065 and tin closed at $19,375 from $19,505. Nickel ended at $14,175 from $14,360.

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