* HSBC China flash PMI falls to seven-month low of 49.6
* Worries of early end to bond buying also hurt sentiment
* Coming Up; U.S. jobless claims 1230 GMT
By Eric Onstad
LONDON, May 23 Copper reversed the week's gains, sliding as much
as 3 percent on Thursday after a survey showed China's manufacturing sector
contracted, but a shutdown at one of the world's biggest mines in Indonesia
helped cap losses.
Other industrial metals such as aluminium and nickel also
fell, giving up 1-2 percent as investors worried a sluggish Chinese economy
would hit metals demand.
Metals spiralled lower after a survey of Chinese purchasing managers (PMI)
in the world's biggest consumer of industrial metals after showed factory
activity shrank for the first time in seven months in May.
"The data have maybe given people a bit of a reality check, but it shouldn't
have come as a surprise. All the indications from the Chinese economy at large
have been suggesting a very muted recovery," said analyst Robin Bhar at Societe
Generale in London.
Also weighing on the market were comments from the U.S. Federal Reserve
chief on Wednesday, raising concern the bank would end its bond-buying program
earlier than expected, eroding liquidity and investment capital available for
"For so long people have taken for granted that money will be free. But as
soon as it's not free, then that's when we are going to see big ruction in
metals markets," said Matt Fusarelli, analyst at consultancy AME Group in
Sentiment failed to get much of a boost from a PMI survey in the euro zone,
which showed a downturn among businesses eased slightly this month, but also
indicated that a dearth of new orders meant the bloc's economy was likely to
contract again in the second quarter.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange tumbled 3.0 percent
to an intraday low of $7,250 a tonne, before paring losses to trade at $7,320.25
at 1000 GMT, a decline of 2.1 percent.
Copper has given up nearly all its gains for the week so far after failing
to build on a six-week high of $7,533.75 a tonne hit on Wednesday.
The weaker market was also reflected in a move by investment bank Goldman
Sachs, which gave up on a previous bullish recommendation and advised clients to
Goldman had told clients to go long in copper on March 1, forecasting a
bounce back to around $8,000 a tonne, but instead the market tumbled, so the
bank said the trade should be closed with losses of $236 a tonne or 3.1 percent.
The most-traded September copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange
lost 2.1 percent on Thursday to close at 52,350 yuan ($8,500) a tonne.
Bhar said the LME copper market was unlikely to revisit 18-month lows hit
early in the month just below $6,800 a tonne due to support from restricted
copper supply, including the length of a mine closure in Indonesia after a
shutdown last week.
A trade union official said on Thursday all investigations into a tunnel
collapse that killed 28 people at the world's No.2 copper mine, run by Freeport
McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc, must be completed before workers return.
"It may be that the supply side comes to the rescue of a fairly weak demand
uptick so far in copper," Bhar added.
A landslide at Rio Tinto's mine in Utah had also cut production.
India's top copper smelter, run by Sterlite Industries, also
remains shut as a court continues hearing into complaints of emissions.
Among other metals, tin suffered the biggest decline, giving up 2.2
percent to $21,000 a tonne.
Metal Prices at 1000 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
COMEX Cu 330.00 -7.70 -2.28 365.25 -9.65
LME Alum 1864.25 -19.75 -1.05 2073.00 -10.07
LME Cu 7320.25 -154.75 -2.07 7931.00 -7.70
LME Lead 2031.50 -25.50 -1.24 2330.00 -12.81
LME Nickel 14932.00 -238.00 -1.57 17060.00 -12.47
LME Tin 20965.00 -510.00 -2.37 23400.00 -10.41
LME Zinc 1863.50 -17.50 -0.93 2080.00 -10.41
SHFE Alu 14610.00 -20.00 -0.14 15435.00 -5.34
SHFE Cu* 52460.00 -1150.00 -2.15 57690.00 -9.07
SHFE Zin 14415.00 -75.00 -0.52 15625.00 -7.74
** Benchmark month for COMEX copper
* 3rd contract month for SHFE AL, CU and ZN
SHFE ZN began trading on 26/3/07