Copper Set for Biggest Quarterly Drop Since June on China

Copper is poised for the biggest quarterly loss since June on concern that an economic slowdown in China, the biggest metals consumer, will lower demand.

The metal for delivery in three months on the London Metal Exchange was little changed at $6,671 a metric ton by 3:15 p.m. in Hong Kong after falling as much as 0.5 percent and rising as much as 0.2 percent. Prices are down 9.4 percent this year, the most among the six main industrial metals on the bourse.

Official and private gauges of Chinese industrial activity due tomorrow may add to signs of slowing growth in the world’s second-biggest economy. The official Purchasing Managers’ Index for manufacturing will fall to 50.1 in March from 50.2 in February, while data from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics will remain at 48.1, according to analyst estimates in Bloomberg surveys. A number below 50 signals contraction.

“Copper has more downside risks,” said Helen Lau, a commodity analyst at UOB Kay Hian Ltd. in Hong Kong. The slowdown in China will continue with a crash unlikely, which will mean government stimulus will be limited, she said.

Copper futures for May delivery were little changed at $3.041 a pound in New York, while in Shanghai, the contract for June closed 0.7 percent higher at 46,790 yuan ($7,524) a ton.

Nickel in London is on course for the biggest quarterly advance since 2010 after Indonesia, the top miner of the material used in stainless steel, started an export ban on unprocessed ores on Jan. 12. It climbed 14 percent since the start of the year, the best-performing base metal on the LME.

On the London exchange, lead and aluminum rose, while zinc and tin were little changed.