Nickel Drops as Manufacturing Expansion Slows in China

Nickel prices fell for the fifth time in six sessions on signs that manufacturing is expanding at the slowest pace in four months in China, the world’s largest consumer of industrial metals.

A Purchasing Managers’ Index gave a preliminary reading of 50.4 for February, HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics said today. That compared with 52.3 in January. The International Nickel Study Group said on Feb. 20 that output of the refined metal was 1.75 million metric tons in 2012, outpacing demand of 1.66 million tons.

“The fundamentals are weak, and the data out of China pulled the prices down further,” Edward Meir, an analyst at INTL FCStone in New York, said in a telephone interview.

On the London Metal Exchange, nickel for delivery in three months slumped 1.6 percent to settle at $16,705 a ton at 5:50 p.m. local time. Last week, the price tumbled 7.6 percent, the most since September 2011.

Inventory monitored by the LME rose 0.7 percent to 155,568 tons today, the highest since April 2010.

Copper for delivery in three months climbed 0.4 percent to $7,836 a ton ($3.55 a pound). Last week, the metal dropped 4.9 percent, the most since December 2011.

Aluminum and lead declined on the LME, while tin and zinc rose.

Copper futures for May delivery gained 0.3 percent to $3.561 a pound on the Comex in New York. Volume was up 92 percent from the average in the past 100 days.

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