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Industrial metals decline as investors weigh China's slowdown

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - 16:34
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Copper fell for the first time in four days and most base metals declined as investors weighed signs of slower growth in China, the world's largest user.

[HONG KONG] Copper fell for the first time in four days and most base metals declined as investors weighed signs of slower growth in China, the world's largest user.

The metal retreated as much as 0.8 per cent after posting its biggest advance in 21 months on Tuesday.

A gauge of China's services industry slipped to a six-month low, data released Wednesday showed. Similar measures of the euro region and US are due later in the day. China's official manufacturing index released earlier this week signalled a contraction last month for the first time in more than two years.

China's services data "is another nail in the slowing scenario," said David Lennox, a resource analyst at Fat Prophets in Sydney.

"It will add to the weight that China will gently nudge the accelerator to add growth when required." Copper for delivery in three months on the London Metal Exchange dropped 0.5 per cent to US$5,660.50 a metric ton (US$2.57 a pound) at 3:18pm in Hong Kong. The metal rose 3.5 per cent to US$5,690 on Tuesday, the largest advance since May 2013.

In New York, copper futures for March delivery dropped 0.4 per cent to US$2.5705 a pound, while the metal for April in Shanghai advanced one per cent to close at 41,160 yuan (US$6,587) a ton.

The Services Purchasing Managers' Index for China from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics for January was 51.8, down from 53.4 a month earlier. Numbers above 50 indicate expansion.

Copper earlier rose as much as 1.1 per cent amid speculation that China may take steps to stimulate growth. Prices collapsed 19 per cent over the past 12 months on signs of slowing demand.

Brent crude entered a bull market on Tuesday in London on speculation reduced investment will curb output. Higher energy prices raise the prospect of increased production costs for commodities. Oil prices have risen 17 per cent in the last four days, while copper advanced 4.8 per cent over that period.

"The current rally in commodity markets will need to be supported by positive fundamentals to maintain the gains seen this week," analysts including Daniel Hynes at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd said in a research note Wednesday.

Officials from four of China's largest copper smelters met on Monday in Shanghai to discuss falling prices, supply and domestic sales, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter. The country produced a record 7.96 million tons of the metal last year, according to data from National Bureau of Statistics.

On the LME, aluminum, nickel, tin and zinc declined. Lead was little changed.

BLOOMBERG

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