Oct 18, 2012 (Dow Jones) NEW YORK--Copper futures settled lower in quiet trade Thursday, with prices mired by conflicting signals from the world's largest economies.
The most actively traded contract, for December delivery, slipped 0.5 cent, or 0.1%, to settle at $3.7430 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Copper prices spent most of the New York trading day in negative territory, closely following shifts in the currency markets. The euro retreated against the dollar as European lawmakers launched a two-day summit to address the region's continued struggle with government debt.
Most commodities, including copper, are traded in dollars and become more expensive for investors who use other currencies, deterring these buyers from the market.
Copper futures also benefited from an increase in the number of open futures contracts, or open interest. Comex copper open interest rose by 6,153 contracts to 156,449, which beat out silver's open interest of 141,240 futures contracts.
"It means that there's a lot more interest in the copper contract than the silver from fund managers," said George Gero, senior vice president with RBC Capital Markets Global Futures.
Copper futures had touched an overnight high after closely watched economic growth data from China met market expectations and showed that the world's top copper consumer expanded at 7.4% during the third quarter. Some investors had worried that the report would reveal slower-than-expected growth and damp the outlook for future copper demand.
Still, Matt Zeman, head of trading at Kingsview Financial said that "7.4% growth is nothing to sneeze at, but when people think of China they think of this engine that's going to grow at 9% or 10% on an annual basis."
Other economic reports from China painted a picture of modest improvement, however. China's value-added industrial output rose 9.2% in September from a year earlier, beating forecasts of a 9% increase and above August's 8.9% growth.
Copper settlements (ranges include electronic and pit trading):
Oct $3.7470; down 0.55 cent; Range $3.7345-$3.7565
Dec $3.7430; down 0.50 cent; Range $3.7210-$3.7650