NEW YORK/LONDON, July 12 (Reuters) - Copper ended lower on Monday, with prices in New York snapping a five-day rally, after the world's top metals consumer China disappointed investors with an unexpected drop in copper imports for a third straight month in June.
"Markets have generally responded negatively to the Chinese commodity imports news," Bart Melek, Global Commodity Strategist with BMO Nesbitt Burns in Toronto, said in a research commentary.
"However, so far this year, most commodity imports are still trending at healthy levels." China's trade surplus in June jumped on surprising strength in exports, but copper imports fell by 17.3 percent to 328,231 tonnes.
Copper for September delivery HGU0 fell 4.45 cents to end at $3.0090 per lb on the COMEX metals division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, near the bottom of its $2.9850 to $3.0650 session range.
On the London Metal Exchange, benchmark copper for three-month delivery CMCU3 shed $139 to close at $6,630 a tonne.
"The sell-off wasn't that bad -- the number came in 17 percent lower than the prior month -- that was a big disappointment," said Edward Meir, energy and metals analyst for MF Global in New York.
"But the market is taking it pretty well." "Given BMO Research's projections of continued global and Chinese economic growth, it is likely imports of copper and iron ore should improve later in the year. "This should also help prices to move higher materially after the summer," he said.
Beijing is scheduled to release a slew of economic data for June later this week, including economic growth, inflation and industrial output, expected to shed light on the health of the world's third-largest economy.
"The markets were very nervous about a sharp slowdown, possible double-dip, and now they are starting to stabilize and discount a scenario of slower, but still steady growth," Meir said.
Stoking losses, gains in the dollar made commodities priced in the U.S. currency costlier for non-U.S. investors. The euro fell against the dollar due to concerns about the results of stress tests on European banks.
INDIA INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT
Also on Monday, data showed India's May industrial output grew at a slower-than-expected 11.5 percent from a year earlier, signaling caution for the economic outlook.
But a decline in copper stocks at LME-registered warehouses since February has given investors some optimism for the demand outlook. LME's copper stocks last fell 1,650 tonnes to 435,250 tonnes, to their lowest since late November last year.
LME copper's cash-to-three-month spread MCU0-3 fell to just below $19, its narrowest since mid-February, caused by tightness in the spot market, according to traders.
Wall Street's earnings season unofficially begins with Alcoa Inc (AA.N) after the closing bell on Monday. The largest U.S. aluminum producer is expected to swing to a second-quarter profit, but weak aluminum prices could weigh.
Aluminum CMAL3 ended down $32 at $1,972 a tonne. Zinc CMZN3 closed with a loss of $48.50 to $1,855.50 a tonne, and lead CMPB3 dropped $60.50 to end at $1,784.50. Tin CMSN3 ended at $17,525 from $17,650 and nickel CMNI3 shed $300 to close at $19,200.