Copper Falls for Third Time in Four Days as China Demand May Ebb

Feb 13, 2014 2:10 pm ET

Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Copper futures declined for the third time in four days on signs that demand may ebb this year in China, the world’s biggest consumer of industrial metals.

China is targeting a gain in exports of about 7.5 percent in 2014, three people with direct knowledge of the matter said, below last year’s increase of 7.9 percent. Passenger-vehicle sales in the country rose less than analysts estimated last month, adding to signs that the economy is slowing.

“Slower exports from China could be a sign of weaker global demand,” Phil Streible, a senior commodity broker at R.J. O’Brien & Associates in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “Slower shipments would hurt copper and other raw materials.”

Copper futures for March delivery declined 0.2 percent to settle at $3.25 a pound at 1:21 p.m. on the Comex in New York. The metal has dropped 4.3 percent this year.

Yesterday, futures rose 1.3 percent, the most in a month, after Chinese trade figures exceeded estimates and data showed imports of unwrought copper and copper products into the nation surged to a record in January.

Today’s decline in prices “suggests that the spike in January metal imports is being perceived more as a ‘financing play’ as opposed to a ‘consumption play’,” Edward Meir, an analyst at INTL FCStone Inc. in New York, said in a report. Yesterday’s trade data “has done little, if anything, to dispel lingering concern about China’s short-term macro outlook.”

On the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months fell 0.6 percent to $7,110 a metric ton ($3.23 a pound).

Aluminum, zinc and tin rose in London, while nickel and lead slid.

--Editor: Patrick McKiernan