Jul 24, 2012 (Dow Jones) NEW YORK--Copper futures fell to a four-week low on Tuesday as weak readings on manufacturing in the U.S. central Atlantic states and in Germany added to concerns about demand for the industrial metal.
Copper for September delivery, the most actively traded contract, fell 2.70 cents, or 0.8%, to settle at $3.353 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest ending price since June 28.
Copper is sensitive to the economic outlook because of its widespread use across industries, including plumbing and wiring in construction as well as appliances and automobiles.
Early on Tuesday, copper traded near the unchanged mark, boosted as HSBC's preliminary reading on Chinese manufacturing hit a five-month high in July. The bank's purchasing managers index stood at 49.5, still showing contraction in the sector, but up from 48.2 in June.
But worries that Europe's banking crisis and slowing growth in the U.S. would drag on the global industrial economy pushed the metal lower midday.
Moody's Investors Services late Monday lowered its credit rating outlook on Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg to negative from stable. Data released Tuesday showed manufacturing in Germany, a driver of European industrial activity, continued to weaken this month. Markit's preliminary manufacturing purchasing managers index touched a 37-month in July.
Euro-zone concerns are still "weighing heavy" on the copper market, traders with RBC Capital Markets said in a note. The euro zone is the second largest copper consumer after China.
In the U.S., the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond said its index of central Atlantic manufacturing conditions slumped by more than previously reported in July.
Copper settlements (ranges include electronic and pit trading):
Jul $3.3530; down 2.85 cents; Range $3.3530-$3.3800
Sep $3.3530; down 2.70 cents; Range $3.3385-$3.4015