LONDON, Feb. 25 -- Copper fell for a third day in New York and London after imports of metal into China, the world's biggest consumer, dropped for the first time in three months.
Inbound shipments of refined copper were 196,926 metric tons in January, the Beijing-based customs office said today. That's 19 percent less than December, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Record Chinese imports in last year's first half helped prices to double in 2009.
"Imports have declined, but are still impressive given where the price is," David Thurtell, an analyst at Citigroup Inc. in London, said by phone.
Copper for May delivery slid 2.05 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $3.214 a pound at 8:08 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange's Comex unit. Copper for three-month delivery dropped 0.8 percent to $7,075 a ton on the London Metal Exchange.
All of the six main metals traded on the LME retreated except tin. Copper producer Kazakhmys Plc and other mining companies posted four of the 10 biggest drops in the U.K. benchmark FTSE 100 Index of shares.
"The market seems to be in a gloomy mood again," Thurtell said. "Copper seems to be expensive above $7,000 if there are worries about the sustainability of growth in the euro zone, Japan and the U.S."
Prices also dropped as bookings to remove copper from warehouses monitored by the LME declined for a second day, falling 13 percent to 14,000 tons, according to a daily exchange inventory report. Copper stockpiles slipped 0.3 percent to 552,675 tons.
A report due at 10 a.m. in Washington probably will show that sales of new homes in the U.S. rose in January. Builders use more copper products than any other industrial consumer, accounting for more than two-fifths of U.S. demand, according to the Copper Development Association.
The Commerce Department is expected to say purchases of new homes in the U.S. increased 3.5 percent to an annual pace of 353,000 new homes, according to a Bloomberg survey.
At about the same time, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is set to deliver his semiannual report on the U.S. economy to Congress. He may repeat the central bank's pledge to keep interest rates low for "an extended period" to help nurture the recovery. The country is the second-largest copper user after China.
"I expect Bernanke to say that the U.S. economy is recovering slowly but surely," Citigroup's Thurtell said.
Aluminum for three-month delivery fell 0.3 percent to $2,120 a ton on the LME. Canceled warrants jumped 2.7 percent to 304,400 tons, or 6.6 percent of total aluminum inventories, the highest since 2006. Stockpiles were little changed at 4.58 million tons.
Zinc shed 2.1 percent to $2,174 a ton and nickel dropped 0.2 percent to $20,150 a ton. Lead fell 2.2 percent to $2,185 a ton and tin rose 0.2 percent to $16,850 a ton.