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Copper Swings Between Gains and Drops on China Imports

Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Copper swung between gains and declines in London as investors weighed reduced imports of refined metal into China, the world’s biggest consumer, against a weaker dollar.

Shipments fell 4.7 percent in December from a month earlier as higher prices on the London Metal Exchange reduced the attractiveness of buying metal overseas to sell at home, Chinese customs figures showed today. The dollar slipped as much as 0.2 percent against a six-currency basket, making raw materials more appealing as an alternative investment, before erasing the drop.

“For some time now, Chinese buying of copper has been very opportunistic, accumulating metal at low prices and drawing down stockpiles if LME prices get too far ahead” of Shanghai, said Nic Brown, head of commodity research at Natixis SA in London.

Copper for delivery in three months was little changed at $8,058 a metric ton by 5:22 p.m. on the LME. Copper for delivery in March fell 0.3 percent to $3.6665 a pound on the Comex in New York, where floor trading is closed today for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Money managers cut their net-long positions, or bets on a rising copper market, by 20 percent to 16,168 Comex futures and options contracts as of Jan. 15 from a week earlier, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data showed. Investors bought and sold LME futures equating to 11 percent of the three-month daily average, figures compiled by Bloomberg showed.

Japan’s copper wire and cable shipments fell 1.2 percent to 58,000 tons in December from a year earlier as demand from the auto, electric-machinery and export industries slowed, industry figures showed.

Copper stockpiles tracked by the LME were little changed at 345,525 tons, daily exchange figures showed. Orders to draw metal from warehouses dropped 3.5 percent to 51,000 tons.

Aluminum, nickel, zinc, lead and tin fell in London.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Kolesnikova in London at mkolesnikova@bloomberg.net

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

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