SHANGHAI, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Copper fell on Thursday, having lost ground for the last four sessions, after signs of a delay to a bailout for Greece soured sentiment and put the euro on the defensive against the dollar.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange slipped by 0.39 percent to $8,337.25 a tonne by 0113 GMT, extending losses from the previous session. The metal has fallen back by nearly five percent from a five-month high of $8,765 hit last week. A break of $8,280 a tonne, a key chart level of support, could open the way to further technical selling, analysts said.
The most-traded May copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell by -1.40 percent to 59,580 yuan ($9,500) a tonne.
Greece expressed hope it can secure its second EU/IMF bailout in as many years and a deal on easing its debt burden next week, but its euro zone peers made clear the months of increasingly ill-tempered argument are not quite over yet.
Euro zone finance officials are examining ways of delaying parts or even all of a second bailout programme for Greece while still ensuring it avoids a disorderly default, several EU sources said on Wednesday.
Moody's Investor Service warned on Thursday it could downgrade the credit ratings of 17 global banks and securities firms due to more fragile funding conditions, increased regulatory burdens and a more difficult operating environment.
The announcement came shortly after Moody's said it was taking ratings action on 114 financial institutions in 16 European countries to reflect the impact of the continent's debt crisis and the deteriortating creditworthiness of governments in the region.
Output from the world's largest copper mine, Chile's Escondida, plummeted 24.6 percent in 2011 from a year earlier to its lowest level in nearly a decade, on sinking ore grades and a two-week strike, the mine said on Wednesday.
Zinc miners are pushing smelters for a significant drop in fees they charge to convert concentrate into refined metal in 2012, due to prospects of tighter supply and lower spot premiums in China, industry sources said ahead of a gathering next week.
Copper prices could fall to $7,500 a tonne by the end of this quarter, erasing an 11 percent gain in the year to date, technical analysts say, as chart patterns throw up negative signals.
The euro was on the defensive in early trade on Thursday as officials in Europe considered delaying a second bailout package for Greece even as the indebted country met demands set by international lenders.
Asian shares and the euro fell on Thursday, sharply reversing the previous day's rally as optimism was dashed by another delay in cementing a crucial bailout for stricken Greece, underscoring how far away Europe is from resolving its debt crisis.
1330 - U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims
1330 - U.S. Housing Starts/Building Permits For January
1330 - U.S. PPI/Core PPI for January
1400 - Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke speaks
1500 - U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner testifies
1500 - Phila. Fed Business Activity Index for February
1900 - U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner testifies
Base metals prices at 0113 GMT
Metal Last Change Pct Move YTD pct chg
LME Cu 8337.25 -32.75 -0.39 9.70
SHFE CU FUT MAY2 59580 -850 -1.41 7.62
HG COPPER MAR2 378.95 -1.20 -0.32 10.29
LME Alum 2194.50 -5.50 -0.25 8.64
SHFE AL FUT MAY2 16165 -55 -0.34 2.02
LME Zinc 2014.00 2.00 +0.10 9.16
SHFE ZN FUT MAY2 15680 -265 -1.66 5.98
LME Nickel 20075.00 0.00 +0.00 7.30
LME Lead 2062.00 0.00 +0.00 1.33
SHFE PB FUT 15700.00 -190.00 -1.20 2.72
LME Tin 24595.00 0.00 +0.00 28.10
LME/Shanghai arb^ 1872
Shanghai and COMEX contracts show most active months
($1 = 6.3000 Chinese yuan)