Copper at 1-week low on firm dollar, renewed growth worries

  on October 08 2012 7:36 AM

(Reuters) - Copper hit its lowest in more than a week on Monday under pressure from a firmer dollar and as concerns resurfaced about Europe's debt crisis and the slowdown in top copper consumer China.

The World Bank earlier cut its economic forecasts for the East Asia and Pacific region, saying the slowdown in China could get worse and last longer than expected, sparking renewed debate over a sharp decline in growth in the world's second largest economy.

The euro fell versus the dollar meanwhile, as uncertainty over the timing of a Spanish bailout request dominated sentiment and little progress was expected from a meeting of euro zone finance ministers later on.

A weak euro makes dollar-priced metal more costly for European and other non-U.S. investors.

The dollar rallied Friday after data showed the U.S. unemployment rate fell to a near four-year low in September, though the numbers also sparked worries that the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing program might end prematurely.

BNP Paribas analyst Stephen Briggs said other payrolls concerns might also be dogging metals: "Realistically there's a lot of question marks around that drop in the unemployment rate, it may indicate some statistical anomalies."

He added: "We're in a risk off day, it's not anything very specific to base metals, we've had a pretty good run since early August so it was always likely we were going to get a correction."

Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange CMCU3 fell 1.62 percent to $8,160 per tonne by 0951 GMT, giving back more than all of last week's gains. Earlier, the metal used in power and construction touched its lowest since late September at $8,152.50.

National holidays in Japan and the United States on Monday were expected to limit trading activity.

An unexpected jump in German exports during August failed to further erode investor concerns, which have been slowly fading ever since major central banks took action last month to easy monetary policy and support growth.

CHINA FUNDAMENTALS EYED

In China, which accounts for some 40 percent of global copper consumption, traders returned to the market from a week-long national holiday to find few signs of demand improving.

"Investors are dismayed by sluggish downstream demand in China. In copper, spot prices are still trading at a large discount to prompt-month futures. If this continues, there may be more downside room to copper futures," said Orient Futures Derivatives Director Andy Du.

Chinese prices of spot copper were trading at a discount of 150 yuan per tonne to the ShFE front-month October contract by the session close, pointing to still weak consumer demand. Spot aluminium, zinc and lead were also trading lower than their Shanghai front-month futures.

China will release at the end of next week growth data for the third quarter, which analysts expect to show the weakest three months of the year. China is also expected to announce export-import data for September on Saturday.

In other metals traded, soldering metal tin fell 1.47 percent to $22,070 a tonne, with the premium for cash tin easing versus the benchmark price, indicating nearby supplies are improving.

Zinc, used in galvanizing, fell 1.59 percent to $2,042 a tonne, having earlier touched its lowest since mid-September at $2,037.

Battery material lead dropped 1.64 percent to $2,250.50 a tonne despite a large drop in LME lead stocks of 3,225 tonnes, bringing closing stocks to a paltry 251,350 tonnes.

Aluminium fell 1.85 percent to $2,071 a tonne, while stainless-steel ingredient nickel dropped 1.05 percent to $18,108.

(Reporting by Maytaal Angel; editing by Keiron Henderson)

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