NEW YORK, Sep 09, 2010 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex) --
Copper futures Thursday fell to their lowest levels in a week as market participants cashed in on the highest prices since April.
The most actively traded copper contract, for December delivery, fell 5.7 cents, or 1.7%, to $3.4435 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Market participants Thursday sold copper holdings to book profits on futures that have trended higher since June. The benchmark contract has traded in a narrow range recently as traders weigh whether moves higher than $3.50 a pound are sustainable given the sluggish economic recovery.
With the supply-and-demand situation largely unchanged in recent weeks, futures were trading on momentum and technical indicators, said Larry Young, president of Chicago-based Covenant Trading. "Today was just some profit-taking," he added.
Industrial metals futures had plunged in Asian trading on reports of a Chinese government crackdown on rubber futures trading by a Shanghai brokerage. The company at the center of the rumors released a statement saying it was not under investigation by regulatory authorities, but the news was enough to spook traders and send prices of many commodities lower.
Some analysts have predicted a slowdown in economic activity in China as the government tries to limit the growth of speculative bubbles.
"China remains concerned about inflation and arguably authorities would resist higher commodity prices as much as possible," Standard Bank analyst Walter de Wet wrote in a research note. China is the world's largest consumer of raw materials and a driver of global growth.
Futures pared their losses after a better-than-expected reading on the U.S. job market. Initial unemployment claims decreased by 27,000 to 451,000 in the week ended Sept. 4, the Labor Department said. But unemployment remains high, hampering U.S. economic growth and weighing on the copper demand outlook. Copper is sensitive to the economic cycle because of its widespread use in construction and manufacturing.
"At this point there is no news in the market that would lead to" new highs, said Catherine Virga, analyst with CPM group in New York.
Meanwhile, copper inventories stored in London Metal Exchange-monitored warehouses fell by 1,125 metric tons Thursday, to 393,357. Stockpiles are down 1.3% in September, and have fallen by 22% so far this year. The latest Comex inventory data, released Wednesday afternoon, showed a drop of 65 short tons, to 94,435. Some see declining inventories leading to a global copper supply deficit in 2011, as production may not rise to meet growing demand.
Copper settlements (ranges include electronic and pit trading):
Sept $3.4335; down 5.7 cents; Range $3.3895-$3.4805
Dec $3.4435; down 5.7 cents; Range $3.3930-$3.5020