London - Copper prices dipped to a near 3-week low on Monday as signs of weak global growth dampened the demand outlook for industrial metals, with the focus on buying interest from top consumer China where investors are returning from a week-long holiday.
Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange fell to $8,132 a tonne at 13:08 SA time, down 0.9 percent from a close of $8,207 on Friday. It earlier fell to an intraday low at $8,127.50, its lowest level since January 30.
Benchmark tin and nickel also touched 3-week intraday lows.
Copper hit a 4-month-peak of $8,346 in early February but has since struggled to gain traction. Traders hope that China's return to the market week could help set a floor under prices.
But worries about the outlook for the global economy, following last week's weak growth data in the euro zone and soft US manufacturing figures, and its impact on demand for industrial metals have put a cap on further gains.
“Sentiment is taking a bit of a knock from the investment flows that we have seen from Asia. The impression that we get is that investors in Asia are a bit more negative about growth prospects for the US and Europe and as a result are concerned about export demand,” said Gayle Berry, analyst at Barclays.
“And it is going to take a little while before we see whether or not some of the better economic data coming out of China translates into better metal demand.”
Gains in the dollar versus the euro also put pressure on metals prices. A strong dollar makes commodities priced in the US unit more expensive for holders of other currencies.
Over the weekend, the Group of 20 nations declared there would be no currency war and deferred plans to set new debt-cutting targets, underlining broad concern about the fragile state of the world economy.
All eyes are on any signs of a pick-up in demand from China, which accounts for 40 percent of global refined copper demand.
“China's overall economy is still strong, so the appetite for base metals after Chinese New Year will gradually pick up,” said Helen Lau, senior commodity analyst at UOB-Kay Hian in Hong Kong said.
“People should not view consolidation as the start of a weaker trend from here - instead we would recommend it as a chance to get in,” Lau said, adding that strong growth in the China's construction sector would underpin metals this year.
Traders painted a mixed demand picture for copper in China.
They reported purchases of the metal from bonded Shanghai inventories which are teetering near record highs above 1 million tonnes but also selling of copper futures and fresh shorts.
“Many Chinese were long or reluctant to short in pre-Lunar New Year trade as we've seen westerners pulling the market higher to squeeze Chinese shorts in last few years,” a Shanghai-based trader said.
“Now, bears are more confident to short on the almost unchanged price during the holiday,” he added.
Three-month tin slipped to $24,680 a tonne from Friday's close of $24,800, also having fallen to a near 3-week low in intraday trade at $24,625 a tonne.
Nickel was at $18,070 from $18,375, earlier falling to a near 3-week low at $17,950.
Three-month zinc fell to $2,164.50 a tonne from Friday's close of $2,175. It earlier fell to its lowest level in more than a week at $2,155.25.
Lead slipped to $2,418 from $2,433, while aluminium fell to $2,146.50 from a last bid of $2,167. - Reuters