Industrial Metals Fall as China Data Misses Estimates

Industrial metals retreated with nickel slumping from the highest level in three months after a manufacturing gauge unexpectedly contracted in China, the world’s biggest consumer.

Nickel for delivery in three months on the London Metal Exchange slid as much as 1.2 percent to $14,620 a metric ton and traded at $14,635 by 4:46 p.m. in Tokyo. The metal is still up 5.3 percent this month, the most among the six main metals traded on the LME. Copper lost 0.3 percent to $7,274 a ton.

The preliminary reading of 49.6 for a Purchasing Managers’ Index released today by HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics compares with a final figure of 50.5 in December and a 50.3 median estimate of 19 analysts in a Bloomberg News survey. A number above 50 indicates expansion.

“The data took everyone by surprise,” said Chae Un Soo, a metals trader at Korea Exchange Bank Futures Co. in Seoul. Concern deepened that China’s growth is slowing, damping the demand outlook for metals, he said.

Markit also releases its preliminary U.S. PMI today while official gauges of manufacturing for the euro zone as well as France and Germany are due. China’s economic growth slowed to 7.7 percent in the final quarter of last year from 7.8 percent in the previous period as industrial output grew at the weakest pace in five months in December, data showed this week.

Copper for delivery in April slid 0.4 percent to close at 51,410 yuan ($8,494) a ton on the Shanghai Futures Exchange. The contract for delivery in March fell 0.5 percent to $3.319 a pound on the Comex in New York.

On the LME, lead, aluminum, zinc and tin also dropped.

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