SHANGHAI, May 3 (Reuters) - London copper steadied on Thursday, after posting its biggest daily drop in more than a week in the previous session as disappointing economic data from both sides of the Atlantic dented the outlook for demand.
Investors were exercising caution ahead of Friday's U.S. nonfarm payrolls report after Wednesday's data showed American private firms hired a far fewer-than-expected 119,000 people in April, the smallest gain since September 2011.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange dipped $7.75 to $8,297.25 a tonne by 0130 GMT, after falling 1.6 percent on Wednesday - its biggest single-day decline since April 23.
The most-active August copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange slipped 0.7 percent to 58,390 yuan ($9,300) a tonne.
U.S. companies hired the fewest people in seven months in April, a worrisome sign for a labor market that has struggled to gain traction and adding to concerns that the economy has lost some momentum.
Unemployment in the euro zone rose to 10.9 percent in March, equalling the record high of 15 years ago, data showed on Wednesday, driven by rises in Italy and Spain.
Euro zone factories sank further into decline last month but manufacturers in Asia upped their tempo to meet growing demand from the United States and China, exposing a widening gulf between Europe and the rest of the world.
But copper market experts have hiked their 2012 price forecasts to $3.84 per lb on expectations for a mild recession in the euro zone, reduced likelihood of a global financial crisis and a soft landing in China, Chile's state copper commission Cochilco said on Wednesday.
Asian shares slipped on Thursday after disappointing economic data rekindled concerns about the strength of the global economic recovery.
The euro wallowed near two-week lows against the greenback on Thursday, having hit the skids overnight on the back of more depressing economic news out of Europe that put the spotlight on the central bank's policy meeting.
1145 EZ ECB rate decision May
1230 U.S. Jobless claims Weekly
1400 U.S. ISM Non-manufacturing April
1430 U.S. EIA natural gas stocks Weekly
Base metals prices at 0130 GMT
Metal Last Change Pct Move YTD pct chg
LME Cu 8297.25 -7.75 -0.09 9.17
SHFE CU FUT AUG2 58390 -390 -0.66 4.96
LME Alum 2104.75 6.75 +0.32 4.20
SHFE AL FUT AUG2 16385 40 +0.24 3.44
HG COPPER JUL2 377.80 -0.90 -0.24 9.95
LME Zinc 2024.00 4.00 +0.20 9.70
SHFE ZN FUT AUG2 15670 -95 -0.60 5.91
LME Nickel 17400.00 115.00 +0.67 -7.00
LME Lead 2130.00 -2.00 -0.09 4.67
SHFE PB FUT 15875 -70 -0.44 3.83
LME Tin 22400.00 0.00 +0.00 16.67
LME/Shanghai arb 2827
Shanghai and COMEX contracts show most active months
^ LME 3-m copper in yuan, including 17 pct VAT, minus SHFE third month
($1 = 6.3070 Chinese yuan)