Dec 21, 2011 NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Copper futures held near steady as traders watched for shifts in the euro, with worries continuing about Europe's sovereign debt problems.
The most actively traded contract, for March delivery, was recently up 0.35 cent, or 0.1%, at $3.3730 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The European Central Bank offered EUR489 billion in emergency three-year loans, taken up by 523 banks. The program is the latest effort to bolster European banks and prevent the region's sovereign debt crisis from hobbling Europe's credit system.
"The European debt markets are exhibiting signs of stability for a second day running, leading to yet another steady tone in the [metal] markets," Edward Meir, metals analyst with INTL FCStone, said in a note to clients.
Europe as a region is second behind China in its consumption of copper, and market participants worry that an economic slowdown or a credit crisis in the region will substantially reduce global demand for the industrial metal.
The euro initially rallied to almost $1.32, but slipped on thin trading and fading optimism over the huge cash injection.
A weaker euro tends to weigh on copper futures, which are denominated in dollars, because these contracts become more expensive to buy for European investors in their home currency terms.
Elsewhere, the International Copper Study Group said the world refined copper market was in deficit by 13,000 metric tons in September, a smaller shortfall than the 37,000-ton deficit recorded in August.
The refined copper market had an estimated production shortfall of 170,000 metric tons in the first nine months of 2011, down from a deficit of 429,000 metric tons in the same period of 2010, the ICSG said.