NEW YORK, Mar 29, 2011 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex) -- Copper futures steadied Tuesday as gains in equities helped counterbalance continued pressure from worries about the global economy.
The most actively traded contract, for May delivery, fell 0.35 cent to settle at $4.3465 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
"The bounce came through the equities markets," said Bob Haberkorn, senior market strategist with Lind-Waldock in Chicago.
Shortly after copper closed, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.5% at 12256.23, helped by a smaller-than-expected drop in U.S. consumer confidence figures.
The metal often tracks with stocks as a proxy on the wider economy because it is widely used to make wire, pipe and sheets for electronics, buildings, automobiles and appliances.
Copper wasn't fully able to recover earlier losses as central bankers kept pointing to tighter monetary policy and the nuclear problems in Japan dragged on.
"Risk appetite has been curbed somewhat by ongoing concern about Japan's crisis and expectations of tighter monetary conditions practically the world over," MF Global analyst Edward Meir said in a note to clients.
Japan's economy and metals demand remains hobbled by the effects of the devastating earthquake and tsunami. Fears about a delayed recovery continued amid the discovery of low-level plutonium at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where workers continued racing to fix cooling systems to bring the reactors to a stable state.
At the same time, concerns about copper demand were also worrying investors amid talk of tighter monetary policy.
St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said Tuesday that U.S. monetary policy cannot remain extremely loose forever and the exit strategy debate will be a key issue in 2011.
Those comments added to other signals from the Fed that it is considering a process of ending its bond-buying program and raising core interest rates.
Such loose monetary policy has been one of the boons to copper prices, helping send them to record highs above $4.60 last month as the recovering global economy also increased demand for the metal.
Copper also fell Monday after Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia president Charles Plosser on Friday noted concerns that the Fed "could get behind the curve" if an exit from ultra-easy policy was not planned. He added that a rise in borrowing rates was "inevitable."
New monetary tightening measures may also be on the horizon in China and the euro zone, after both the People's Bank of China and the European Central Bank reiterated their dedication to tackling inflation Monday.
"In the longer run, monetary tightening may be hard on copper," said Sterling Smith, analyst with Country Hedging.
Copper settlements (ranges include electronic and pit trading):
May $4.3465; down 0.35 cent; Range $4.2925-$4.3700
Jul $4.3635; down 0.35 cent; Range $4.3140-$4.3845