Copper Drops Most in a Week as China Data Fuels Demand Concern

Copper futures fell the most in a week on concern that global supply will exceed demand after China, the world’s biggest consumer of the metal, reported weaker-than-expected exports.

Shipments rose 10 percent in March from a year earlier, Chinese customs figures showed today, less than the median estimate of 11.7 percent in a Bloomberg survey of analysts. Inventories of copper tracked by the London Metal Exchange are the highest since September 2003. Federal Reserve minutes showed today that some policy makers want the central bank to begin tapering its bond-buying program, easing up on measures intended to spur economic growth.

“Any kind of negative news out of China weighs on copper,” Carlos Perez-Santalla, a broker at PVM Futures Inc. in Hoboken, New Jersey, said in a telephone interview. “Also, people are processing what the end of stimulus in the U.S. will mean for copper and other commodities.”

Copper futures for delivery in May slid 0.7 percent to settle at $3.418 a pound at 1:23 p.m. on the Comex in New York, the biggest drop since April 3. Prices have declined 6.4 percent this year.

Rio Tinto Plc is “cautiously optimistic” that the first commercial production at its Oyu Tolgoi copper project in Mongolia will come in summer, Jean-Sebastien Jacques, head of the company’s copper unit, said in an interview in Santiago. Vedanta Resources Plc said in a statement that its output of mined copper in Australia rose 15 percent in the year through March.

Strike Ending

A 24-hour strike by Chilean copper miners at Codelco, the world’s biggest producer, is scheduled to end today. The work stoppage at the state-owned company, which accounts for 10 percent of global mine supply, helped spur a 2.9 percent rally in prices during the previous two days.

On the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months declined 0.7 percent to $7,575 a metric ton ($3.44 a pound).

Stockpiles increased 0.1 percent to 587,925 tons, daily exchange figures showed. Orders to take the metal from warehouses gained 3.4 percent to a record 156,975 tons.

Zinc, nickel, tin and aluminum also fell in London, while lead was unchanged.

The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Spot Index of 24 raw materials declined for the first time in three days.

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