Copper fell the most in three weeks in London as expanding inventories fueled concern that demand is weakening as some governments move to fight inflation.
Stockpiles monitored by exchanges in London, Shanghai and New York have climbed to the highest level since July 26. China, the world’s largest copper user, has boosted interest rates three times since mid-October, spurring speculation that growth will slow. India, South Korea, Brazil and Thailand also lifted borrowing costs.
“India, China, Brazil are implementing much harder monetary policy,” said Michael Pento, a senior economist at Euro Pacific Capital in New York. “There’s a large amount of stockpiles in China. They are going to wind that down.”
On the London Metal Exchange, copper for three-month delivery dropped $169, or 1.7 percent, to close at $9,842 a metric ton ($4.46 a pound) at 6:52 p.m., the biggest decline since Jan. 25. Yesterday, the metal touched a record $10,190.
On the Comex, copper futures for May delivery fell 6.35 cents, or 1.4 percent, to close at $4.4825 a pound in New York. Yesterday, the metal reached $4.6575, the highest ever.
Prices in New York have jumped 38 percent in the past year amid rising demand from emerging markets.
The metal “could stagnate, or drift slightly higher, but it will not increase the way it did last year,” Pento said. “I’ll be shocked to see $5 copper” this year, he said.
Stockpiles may also be rising as higher prices encourage substitution, said Nic Brown, an analyst at Natixis Commodity Markets Ltd. in London.
Lead, nickel, aluminum and zinc also fell in London. Tin was unchanged.