Sep 19, 2011 NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Mounting worries about the financial health of Europe sent traders cashing out of growth-sensitive assets Monday, pushing copper to its lowest price in more than 11 months.
The most actively traded copper contract, for December delivery, fell 14.90 cents, or 3.8%, to settle at $3.7825 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest ending price for a most-active contract since Oct. 7.
Copper prices had held up well in recent weeks despite the grinding euro-zone debt crisis, as mine supply disruptions and a steady demand outlook from top consumer China kept a floor under prices near the psychologically important mark of $4 a pound.
That changed Monday, with copper sliding as worries about a European credit crunch caused investors to dump perceived risky assets. Global equities markets were generally lower, and industrial bellwether crude oil was poised to settle near $85 a barrel, the lowest since August. The benchmark copper futures contract at one point was down by more 4%.
"The (copper) market has just broken down," says Scott Meyers, an analyst with Pioneer Futures.
Investors Monday were disappointed with the result of the weekend's meeting of European finance ministers. The Greek finance minister on Monday said the country would make further spending cuts to secure its next round of international financial support, but market participants still view a default by the debt-laden country as increasingly likely.
"Copper prices remain at the mercy of macroeconomic sentiment," said Barclays Capital analyst Nicholas Snowdon.
Copper was also pressured as investors turned to the dollar as a refuge. A rising dollar can hit dollar-denominated copper by making the futures more expensive for buyers using other currencies.
The ICE U.S. Dollar Index was at 77.312 at the close of Comex floor trading, up from 76.522 late Friday in New York.
The removal of a risk to available copper supply also weighed on market sentiment, as a labor strike at a large Peruvian mining company came to an end.
Unionized workers at Sociedad Minera Cerro Verde ended their strike over the weekend, a union official said. The company is controlled by U.S. mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX). A spokesman for Freeport said copper production was not "materially" affected by the strike.
The news was a signal that "one of the key pillars supporting copper prices recently has also been eroded," said Standard Bank analyst Leon Westgate.
Copper settlements (ranges include electronic and pit trading):
Sep $3.7715; down 14.85 cents; Range $3.7595-$3.8610
Dec $3.7825; down 14.90 cents; Range $3.7655-$3.9150