Jun 12, 2012 (Dow Jones) NEW YORK--Copper futures ended slightly lower Tuesday after treading water for most of the trading session as investor attention remained focused on Europe's sovereign-debt problems despite dovish comments from Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans.
The most-actively traded contract, for July delivery, fell 0.75 cent, or 0.2%, to settle at $3.3355 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Chicago Fed President Evans said additional easing measures would cut the jobless rate sooner, in an interview with Bloomberg Television aired Tuesday. Mr. Evans is a non-voting member of the Fed's policy-making committee.
Copper futures wobbled in and out positive territory for much of the day as traders weighed the likely impact of further easy money on the U.S. economy and future demand for the industrial metal. Copper is widely used in construction and manufacturing and demand from these sectors tends to wane when economic growth slows.
"Copper, being more of an industrial-use-based metal, is kind of in a no man's land right here. On the one hand, additional stimulus is good but, on the other hand, if we need additional stimulus that means...demand and everything is not good," said Matt Zeman, head of trading at Kingsview Financial.
Europe's ongoing struggle with sovereign debt, and investor concern that the crisis is spreading to larger economies and snuffing out growth, has contributed to a 15% slide in the price of copper since February.
Analysts said trading is likely to remain cautious in the coming sessions ahead of a general election in Greece this weekend and a policy meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve next week.
"In the run up to the Greek election, the markets are likely to become increasingly nervous, and it seems unlikely investors will be looking to increase their risk appetite," said William Adams, head of research at FastMarkets.com.
Elsewhere, the head of Chilean state copper commission Cochilco said global copper prices are unlikely to fall below $2.50 to $3.00 a pound over the next few years as demand for the raw material stays robust.
Copper prices will average at $3.85 a pound for 2012, lower than the record $4 a pound seen in 2011, said Cochilco Chief Executive Andres Mac-Lean. Chile produces about a third of the world's copper supply.
Copper settlements (ranges include electronic and pit trading):
Jun $3.3340; down 1.10 cents; Range $3.3240-$3.3530
Jul $3.3355; down 0.75 cents; Range $3.3030-$3.3585