NEW YORK/LONDON, June 3 (Reuters) - Industrial metal prices fell sharply on Thursday, with copper tumbling 3 percent to its lowest level in two weeks on prospects of further monetary tightening in China, the world's top metals consumer.
It was the second straight session of big declines for metals prices as the market worried about a Chinese demand slowdown, even though the broader commodity complex maintained a firmer tone.
"I suspect it is linked more to China, and fears that you're still going to see some some further policy tightening that will be aimed at the property sector which is a big user of copper," said Steve Platt, futures analyst with Archer Financial Services in Chicago.
Copper for July delivery HGN0 on the New York Mercantile Exchange's COMEX division sank 9.40 cents, or 3.1 percent, to settle at $2.9465 per lb, near the bottom of its session range from $3.0845 to $2.9255, a low dating back to May 20.
On the London Metal Exchange, benchmark copper for three-months delivery CMCU3 slumped to a two-week low at $6,477.50 per tonne, before ending at $6,525, down $140 on the day.
Prospects for a demand slump in China have roiled the market since Tuesday when the country reported a slower-than-expected rate of manufacturing activity.
"The concern for copper right now is China ... there is not as much demand for copper there," said Frank Lesh, broker and futures analyst with Future Path Trading in Chicago.
Despite the concern about China, Chile's Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, saw revived demand for its product this year. Chief Executive Diego Hernandez said Codelco sold out of its planned copper production of 1.7 million tonnes for 2010, and saw demand rebounding after a slump in 2009.
Xstrata (XTA.L) said output at its Ernest Henry mine would halve to 25,000 tonnes per year under a plan to halt expansion due to Australia's proposed new mining tax.
Concerns over Europe's debt crisis lingered in the market too. The dollar rose broadly as investors debated the outlook for the U.S. labor market ahead of key non-farm payrolls data on Friday, expected to show the world's largest economy added 513,000 jobs in May.
Among other industrial metals, aluminum CMAL3 touched a seven-month low at $1,930, before ending down $30 at $1,955 a tonne.
Zinc CMZN3 ended off $61 at $1,740, after earlier hitting a level not seen since late July at $1,729.25.
Lead CMPB3 hit a near one-year low at $1,642, and closed at $1,645, down
"Lead is heavily exposed to battery markets. People are positive on global car demand, but if I was sitting in Greece or Spain I wouldn't buy a new car.
Zinc is also exposed to the auto industry," said Evolution Securities analyst Charles Kernot.
Tin CMSN3 ended unchanged at $17,650 and nickel CMNI3 closed at $18,700, down from $19,650, after touching a level not seen since mid-February at $18,546.