China Trade Fizzle Divides Metals as Copper Drops and Gold Gains

  • Producers Freeport, Teck lead Americas mining index lower
  • Chinese copper imports slide to lowest since February 2015

China Exports Fall Most in 7 Months

Copper dropped and gold gained as weak Chinese trade data undermined confidence in the global economy.

Chinese exports unexpectedly shrank the most since February, while imports also declined. The figures signaled slower growth in the world’s second-largest economy just as the U.S. prepares to raise interest rates, boosting gold’s appeal as a haven.

“The Chinese data was disappointing to the industrial metals and pushing the asset protection side of precious metals,” George Gero, a managing director at RBC Wealth Management, said in a telephone interview.

Copper is the worst performer among the six major base metals traded on the London Metal Exchange, little changed this year, as uncertainty in China, the world’s biggest metal consumer, damped prospects of more demand growth ahead. Chinese customs data released Thursday showed copper imports in September slid to the lowest since February 2015.

Copper for delivery in three months fell 2.1 percent to settle at $4,712 a metric ton ($2.14 a pound) at 5:56 p.m. in London, the biggest loss since June.

Gold’s Appeal

Meanwhile, gold has surged 19 percent this year as slower global growth coupled with stimulus policies by central banks outside the U.S. added to the metal’s appeal.

Gold futures for December delivery gained 0.3 percent to $1,257.60 an ounce on the Comex in New York.

Platinum futures for January delivery slid 1 percent to $932.90 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the metal traded in a bear market, down more than 20 percent down from the recent closing high in August.

The Bloomberg Americas Mining Index slumped for the second time in three days, with copper producers Freeport-McMoRan Inc. and Teck Resources Ltd. among the worst performers. U.S. Steel Corp. paced declines by steelmakers as U.S. benchmark hot-rolled coil touched the lowest in almost six months.

In other metal markets:

  • Silver futures for December delivery fell 0.3 percent to $17.458 an ounce on the Comex.
  • On the LME, zinc, nickel, lead and tin also declined, while aluminum gained.
  • On the Comex, copper futures for December delivery fell 2.5 percent to $2.122 a pound.
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