Copper Declines as China’s Imports Fall to 22-Month Low

Copper futures fell from a one-week high as imports dropped to the lowest in 22 months in China, the world’s biggest user of industrial metals, while speculation emerged that the Federal Reserve may scale back U.S. stimulus.

April shipments of refined metal into China tumbled 33 percent to 183,023 metric tons, the lowest since June 2011, from a year earlier, government data showed today. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke testifies on the economic outlook look tomorrow before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. The bank buys $85 billion of Treasury and mortgage debt a month.

“The Chinese data wasn’t overly encouraging, and none of the metals seem capable of anything more than consolidation now,” Bill O’Neill, a partner at Logic Advisors in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, said in a telephone interview. “There’s a pall over industrial commodities.”

Copper futures for July delivery slid 0.5 percent to settle at $3.3435 a pound at 1:14 p.m. on the Comex in New York. Earlier, the price reached $3.3815, the highest since May 10.

The metal rose as much as 0.6 percent after a deadly mine accident fueled supply concerns. Operations will remain suspended at Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.’s Grasberg complex in Indonesia until an investigation of a tunnel collapse is concluded, the nation’s government said today. The death toll has climbed to 28.

BHP Billiton Ltd.’s Escondida mine in Chile is the world’s biggest, followed by Grasberg.

Copper for delivery in three months declined 0.4 percent to $7,370 a ton ($3.34 a pound) on the London Metal Exchange. Nickel, tin, zinc and lead dropped, while aluminum rose less than 0.1 percent.

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