Jun 07, 2012 (Dow Jones) NEW YORK--Copper prices ended little changed Thursday, as investors weighed China's interest rate cut against disappointment over lack of fresh stimulus measures from the Federal Reserve.
The most actively traded contract, for July delivery, settled down 0.85 cent, or 0.3%, at $3.3705 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Copper prices briefly moved to negative territory after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke avoided hinting at new plans for stimulus measures in his testimony to a joint congressional committee. Mr. Bernanke said the euro-zone debt crisis is a "significant" threat to the U.S. economy, as is ongoing weakness in key sectors like housing.
Mr. Bernanke again shifted the onus on lawmakers to address U.S. fiscal policy problems and put the economy on a sustainable path, adding that quantitative easing is not a "panacea."
"The market was all geared up for QE talk and we're not hearing it," said Charles Nedoss, senior market strategist with Olympus Futures.
Copper prices fell 12% last month as worries about the euro-zone debt crisis and slowing growth in China weighed on the market outlook. Copper is widely used in everyday goods like phones, cars and plumbing pipes, and demand for the raw material declines as business activity slows.
However, copper's declines were tempered as traders balanced their disappointment against overnight news that China cut its benchmark interest rates. The People's Bank of China will lower one-year lending and deposit rates by 25 basis points, effective June 8.
"The Chinese rate cut is supportive for copper. Maybe that's one of the reasons we're holding up a little bit better than the other metals today," said Frank Lesh, broker with FuturePath Trading.
China is the world's largest consumer of copper, and its decision to lower rates is aimed at supporting growth.
"I think they have a lot more tools left in their tool box than the U.S.," said Mr. Nedoss.
Copper settlements (ranges include electronic and pit trading):
Jun $3.3695; down 0.95 cent; Range $3.3315-$3.4260
Jul $3.3705; down 0.85 cent; Range $3.3300-$3.4305