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Copper Slips as China Imports Decline, Dollar Gains Strength

Copper fell for the second time in three days as imports dropped to a 20-month low in China, the world’s largest user, and exchange inventories increased.

Inbound Chinese shipments of refined metal, alloy and products were 298,102 metric tons last month, down 38 percent from a year earlier, customs figures showed today. Global inventories monitored by exchanges in London, New York and Shanghai climbed to 803,128 tons today, rising above 800,000 for the first time since December 2003.

“The copper market is mainly focused on China right now, and there’s concern that growth there isn’t going to be what it was,” Michael Smith, the president of T&K Futures & Options in Port St. Lucie, Florida, said in a telephone interview.

Copper futures for delivery in May declined 0.3 percent to settle at $3.509 a pound at 1:23 p.m. on the Comex in New York, paring this week’s gain to 0.2 percent.

The metal also fell as an unexpected drop in the U.S. jobless rate boosted the dollar, reducing the appeal of commodities as alternative investments. Unemployment declined to 7.7 percent last month, the lowest in more than four years, according to a government report. Economists in a Bloomberg survey had expected the rate to hold at 7.9 percent.

“The dollar is sharply higher, and commodities are getting hit,” Matt Zeman, a strategist at Kingsview Financial in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “Metals will continue to be under pressure for as long as the dollar stays strong.”

The greenback climbed as much as 1 percent against a basket of six currencies.

On the LME, copper for delivery in three months dropped 0.3 percent to $7,740.50 a ton ($3.51 a pound).

Aluminum and zinc also fell in London, while lead, nickel and tin advanced.

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