Oct 16, 2012 (Dow Jones) NEW YORK--Copper futures settled near unchanged Tuesday, as upbeat U.S. data were offset by a dearth of traders.
The most actively traded contract, for December delivery, fell 0.15 cent to $3.7000 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
While this was a fresh one-month low for the contract, less than 30,000 copper contracts had changed hands by the time Comex floor trading closed for the day Tuesday.
Copper prices had benefited from data showing U.S. home builders' confidence rose to the highest level since the housing market downturn. The National Association of Home Builders said its housing market index rose one point to 41 in October, its strongest level since June 2006, as interest from prospective buyers surged.
Construction is a major driver of copper demand, as electrical wiring and plumbing are central end-use applications for the metal.
Also, the Federal Reserve reported that U.S. industrial output increased by 0.4% in September, while capacity utilization rose to 78.3% from 78% the previous month.
Copper futures had climbed on the brighter economic news, but struggled to keep those gains throughout the day as transactions were sparse. Many international market participants were on the sidelines Tuesday, as the metals industry gathered for the annual London Metal Exchange Week dinner in London.
Traders at RBC Capital Markets warned that market participants should be on guard for sharp declines on Wednesday morning following tonight's LME dinner celebrations.
"Many of us remember the Wednesday after the LME dinner in 2004 when the market fell 10% during illiquid trading conditions when most of the market was nursing a hangover. That event still remains a sad memory for many LME traders," they said in a note to clients.
Copper settlements (ranges include electronic and pit trading):
Oct $3.7080; down 0.36 cents; Range $3.7050-$3.7250
Dec $3.7000; down 0.15 cents; Range $3.6860-$3.7235