Copper Falls as U.S. Payrolls Report Adds to Demand Concerns

Copper fell in New York, capping a third straight weekly drop, as weaker-than-estimated U.S. employment figures added to signs that economies are struggling to maintain growth amid swelling inventories of the metal.

Payrolls grew by 88,000 workers last month, government figures showed today, the smallest gain in nine months and below the 190,000 forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists. A gauge of Chinese manufacturing for March came in lower this week than analysts expected, and service industries in the euro region contracted at a faster pace. Stockpiles tracked by the London Metal Exchange are at the highest in nine years.

“The jobs number was disappointing, and copper is saying, ‘This is the reality: the economy is weak,’” Jeffrey Friedman, a senior commodities broker RJO Futures in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “The rise in inventories reflects the lack of demand.”

Copper futures for delivery in May slid 0.2 percent to settle at $3.344 a pound at 1:12 p.m. on the Comex in New York. Prices dropped 1.7 percent this week.

Markets in China are closed today for a national holiday. The country is the world’s biggest copper consumer, and the U.S. ranks second.

Inventories tracked by the LME, at the highest since October 2003, rose for a 35th session to 579,600 metric tons, daily exchange figures showed.

On the LME, copper for delivery in three months slipped 0.5 percent to $7,407 a ton ($3.36 a pound).

Relatively low supplies held by producers and consumers signal that global copper stockpiles 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 until next year, according to the bank.

Lead, nickel and zinc retreated in London. Aluminum and tin gained.