Copper Swings on Chile Export Curbs and Signs Economies Struggle

Copper, set for a third weekly drop in London, swung between gains and declines as investors weighed limited exports from leading global producer Chile against signs economies are struggling to maintain growth.

A port strike begun March 16 is curbing Chilean copper exports by 60 percent, Mining Minister Hernan de Solminihac said yesterday. Figures today may show U.S. employers hired fewer workers for a third month in four in March, economists surveyed by Bloomberg said. An official gauge of Chinese manufacturing for March came in lower this week than analysts forecast.

“It’s difficult to be positive,” said David Wilson, an analyst at Citigroup Inc. in London. “We’ve had macro data which is not supportive. Chinese data hasn’t been glowing.”

Copper for delivery in three months added 0.2 percent to $7,455 a metric ton by 9:55 a.m. on the London Metal Exchange after falling as much as 0.4 percent. Prices are down 1.1 percent this week and yesterday touched the lowest since Aug. 3. Copper for delivery in May rose 0.3 percent to $3.3615 a pound on the Comex in New York.

Markets in China, the world’s biggest copper consumer, are closed today for a national holiday.

Workers at Chilean copper mines owned by BHP Billiton Ltd. and Anglo American Plc are preparing protests to push for greater job security, echoing measures announced last month by a union representing workers at state-owned producer Codelco. Still, yesterday’s news will have only a “short-lived” effect as copper stockpiles expand, Citigroup’s Wilson said.

Inventories tracked by the LME, at the highest since October 2003, rose for a 35th session to 579,600 tons, daily exchange figures showed. Orders to take metal from warehouses climbed for a fifth session to 147,025 tons, the highest since at least 1997, on bookings in South Korea and Singapore.

Global copper stocks are unlikely to rise substantially higher than six to seven weeks of demand until 2014, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a report e-mailed today. Prices won’t fall “sustainably” below $7,000 a ton until next year, according to the bank.

Aluminum, lead, and tin rose in London. Nickel and zinc fell.

To contact the reporter on this story: Agnieszka Troszkiewicz in London at atroszkiewic@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net

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