Copper Swings in New York on Seven-Month Low and China Factories

Copper swung between gains and drops in New York as investors weighed the lowest prices in seven months against weaker-than-estimated manufacturing growth in China, the world’s biggest consumer of the metal.

An official gauge of Chinese manufacturing came in at 50.9 for March, the country’s statistics bureau and logistics federation said yesterday, below the reading of 51.2 predicted by economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Figures today will show factory orders rose the most in five months in February in the U.S., the second-ranking copper user, a separate survey showed.

“We expect things to improve gradually, but would see the recent price drop as an attractive buying opportunity,” said Nic Brown, head of commodity research at Natixis SA in London.

Copper for delivery in May was little changed at $3.374 a pound by 6:45 a.m. on the Comex in New York. Prices touched the lowest since Aug. 3 yesterday and today added as much as 0.3 percent and slid as much as 0.4 percent.

Prices in New York also retreated yesterday as a U.S. factory measure from the Institute for Supply Management fell to 51.3 in March, against economists’ projection of 54 in a Bloomberg survey.

Markets in China will be closed April 4-5 for a holiday and traders will “just watch the market and wait for the finishing of the long weekend, instead of taking any extra positions,” said Pengjiang “Richard” Fu, director for Asian commodities trading at Newedge Group SA in London.

Copper for three-month delivery fell 0.9 percent to $7,470 a metric ton on the London Metal Exchange, which was shut yesterday and March 29 for public holidays.

Copper may hit a low of $7,000 a ton by May on weak demand and rising inventories, Edward Meir, an analyst at INTL FCStone Inc. in New York, said in a report e-mailed today. Stockpiles of the metal tracked by the LME are the highest since October 2003.

Inventories expanded for a 32nd session to 571,125 tons, daily LME figures showed. Orders to remove copper from warehouses surged 28 percent to 116,625 tons, the highest level since Feb. 26, 2004, on bookings in New Orleans.

Aluminum for delivery in three months fell 0.5 percent to $1,894.50 a ton in London after reaching $1,893, the lowest since Oct. 30. Nickel, lead, zinc and tin dropped.

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