Mar 06, 2012 NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Copper futures slumped more than 3% Tuesday as worries about global growth and renewed fears about Greece sapped appetite for economically sensitive investments.
The most-actively traded contract, for May delivery, fell 12.20 cents, or 3.2%, to settle at $3.7375 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Copper futures fell for the third consecutive trading session, locking in a 4.7% decline since last Tuesday.
"This is directly related to the slowing economies of China [and] Europe and how much effect it will have on U.S. performance," said Frank Lesh, broker and futures analyst with FuturePath Trading.
Economic growth in the euro zone slowed in the final quarter of 2011, stoking fears the 17-nation union is headed for a recession. The euro zone's gross domestic product fell 0.3% in the final three months of 2011, according to a second reading of the GDP. The data dented hopes that the euro zone might escape recession, characterized by two straight quarters of falling growth.
Copper prices are sensitive to shifts in the pace of business activity as the metal is widely used in everyday products from laptops and cellphones to household plumbing and air conditioners, and demand for such products tends to wane when the economy slows.
"We think there is more pain ahead for the Europeans given that they have yet to institute any pro-growth policies outside of the harsh austerity medicine they are most eager to prescribe," said Edward Meir, senior commodity analyst with INTL FCStone, in a note. "The fact that they are handcuffed by a surprisingly strong currency does not leave them the option of devaluing their way out of the crisis and towards an export-led recovery."
Declines in equities added to copper's losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was recently down 205 points at 12757.
Renewed concerns about Greece further soured the market's tone. Private-sector owners of Greek government debt must decide by Thursday whether to participate in the country's debt-swap deal that will erase 53.5% of the value of these investments. If the debt swap fails to go ahead, so does the second bailout loan for Greece, triggering a messy sovereign default.
Copper also faced continued pressure from China's decision on Monday to lower its growth target. China's move to reduce its 2012 economic growth target to 7.5% from 8% sent ripples of fear through the market as the country consumes about 40% of global copper output and slower growth there would curb demand for the metal.
"Worries about the strength of China's economy and demand have also become more pronounced due to a continued build of local copper stocks...and the government downgrading its economic forecast," said Dan Smith, head of metals research at Standard Chartered, in a report.
Copper settlements (ranges include electronic and pit trading):
May $3.7375; down 12.20 cents; Range $3.7305-$3.8830
Mar $3.7310; down 12.15 cents; Range $3.7285-$3.8515