NEW YORK/LONDON, June 30 (Reuters) - Copper closed the second quarter of 2010 with a loss of more than 17 percent on Wednesday, snapping a string of five consecutive quarterly gains and suffering its biggest three-month decline since the late-2008 financial crisis.
A string of worrisome data and developments, including soft consumer confidence in the United States and a downward revision in China's leading economic indicator index, led a broad retreat in the base complex, adding to the bearish sentiment during the quarter.
"That's clearly what the markets are reacting to," said Peter Buchanan, commodities analyst and senior economist at CIBC in Toronto. "Data touched three of investors' major concerns yesterday, namely the outlook in China, the U.S. consumer, and also the euro zone pressure as well," he said.
Copper for September delivery HGU0 on the COMEX metals division of the New York Mercantile Exchange ended up 2.00 cents at $2.9505 per lb, near the upper end of its $2.8705 to $2.9745 session range.
On the London Metal Exchange, benchmark copper for three-month delivery CMCU3 finished up $16 at $6,510 a tonne.
Despite modest gains in both markets, which traders attributed to quarter-end window dressing, the metal lost more than 17 percent of its value in the quarter. Worse-than-expected private-sector employment data added to the worries, after figures showed muted private payroll gains of only 13,000 jobs in June.
"The U.S. jobs data was disappointing, as they point to a continuation of the anemic recovery in the United States," said David Thurtell, analyst at Citi. "With world producers looking for consumers to step up to the plate, we need jobs to be created. The BRIC economies, particularly China, are doing their best to act as a locomotive, but the load is a heavy one."
Sentiment was further undermined by a survey of business activity in the U.S. Midwest and news that business activity in New York dipped in June.
"We have been looking at growth to decelerate significantly in the second half of the year, and I think the data is a sign that that is still the most likely scenario," CIBC's Buchanan said.
STOCKS OFFER SUPPORT Other base metals slipped to their lowest in nearly three weeks, with aluminum at one point down to $1,920 a tonne, zinc at $1,722, lead at $1,677
and nickel at $18,933. Tin fell to $17,200, its lowest since June 15. Aluminum CMAL3 closed up $27.50 at $1,977.50 a tonne.
Offering the demand picture some support, stocks of aluminum at LME warehouses have been on the decline, last falling 5,475 tonnes to around 4.4 million tonnes, down from a record above 4.6 million tonnes hit earlier this year.
Zinc CMZN3 ended $47 firmer at $1,790 a tonne and lead CMPB3 gained $15 to finish at $1,735 a tonne.
Tin CMSN3 dropped $150 to close at $17,450 a tonne, while nickel CMNI3 climbed $670 to $19,745 a tonne.
"This is a market that from a macro perspective is not looking very robust," said Deutsche Bank analyst Dan Brebner. "The conditions in Europe look highly risky," he said. "There are questions with respect to the U.S. possibly slipping into another recession. Risk aversion is likely to be elevated."