Copper Declines on China Economic Signals; Nickel Extends Rally

May 13, 2014 2:23 pm ET

May 13 (Bloomberg) -- Copper futures fell for the first time in four sessions as slackening factory output raised concern that demand will ebb in China, the world’s top consumer. Nickel rose to the highest since February 2012 in London.

Chinese industrial production in April rose at a slower pace than in March and trailed analyst forecasts, data from the statistics bureau showed. Fixed-asset investment and retail sales also missed estimates. The nation accounts for more than 40 percent of global copper demand, according to Barclays Plc.

“Today’s disappointing numbers out of China are making people a bit nervous,” Frank McGhee, the head dealer at Integrated Brokerage Services LLC in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “It’s becoming clear that the economy is slowing.”

Copper futures for July delivery dropped 0.4 percent to settle at $3.1355 a pound at 1:12 p.m. on the Comex in New York. Yesterday, the price touched a nine-week high of $3.1555.

Declines may be limited amid speculation that the European Central Bank will add monetary stimulus next month, McGhee said. ECB President Mario Draghi signaled last week there would be fresh stimulus in June. The bank’s next policy decision is scheduled for June 5.

“It will be bullish for copper if the ECB goes ahead and announces some stimulus measure,” McGhee said.

On the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months fell 0.5 percent to $6,845 a metric ton ($3.10 a pound).

Nickel rose 0.4 percent to $21,000 a ton after reaching $21,625, the highest since Feb. 10, 2012. The price has surged 51 percent this year after exports of raw ore were banned in January by Indonesia, the biggest miner.

Zinc, aluminum and lead fell on the LME, while tin gained.

--With assistance from Luzi Ann Javier in New York.