METALS-Copper hesitates after 3-1/2 month peak, digests data
* Copper on track for 4 pct gain in January
* U.S. personal income up by most in 8 years
* U.S., Japan to stick to stimulus plans
* Chile's copper production falls 1.8 pct in December
LONDON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Copper steadied on Thursday after hitting a 3-1/2 month peak as weak data and earnings in Germany offset a dip in output in top producer Chile last month and signs of extended central bank stimulus programmes. Investors got more good news about the recovering U.S. economy on Thursday when data showed U.S. personal incomes rose last month by the most in eight years, a positive sign for consumer spending, although this was balanced by a rise in jobless numbers. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange edged down 0.1 percent to $8,218.25 a tonne by 1500 GMT after three days of gains and after touching an intraday peak of $8,291.25, its highest since early October. "What we are seeing generally across the base metals space is everything moving higher as risk appetite improves," said Standard Chartered analsyt Dan Smith. At its peak on Thursday, copper had added more than 3 percent this week and it was on track to rise nearly 4 percent in January. "I think many investors believe we are currently at a macro turning point," said Nicholas Brooks, head of research and product strategy at ETF Securities in London, which has seen record inflows for its base metals funds in recent weeks.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday left in place its monthly $85 billion bond-buying stimulus plan, arguing the support was needed to lower unemployment even as it indicated a recent stall in U.S. economic growth was likely temporary. And on Thursday a Bank of Japan deputy governor flagged the strongest signal yet that it will boldly implement more stimulus if needed to achieve the bank's new 2 percent inflation target. But weak retail sales in Germany, Europe's largest economy, and a big quarterly loss at its biggest bank Deutsche Bank tempered investors' enthusiasm. European shares fell for the second day and the euro halted its recent rally.
CHILE COPPER Copper production in Chile, the world's No. 1 producer of the metal, slipped 1.8 percent in December from a year earlier, although output for the whole of 2012 was up 3 percent. Smith also pointed to the lower Chile copper production numbers for December, and a media report that Rio Tinto Plc was considering a temporary halt to construction at its $6.2 billion Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project in Mongolia. "This whole move up is part of the general theme, but nevertheless those things help," he said. Rio Tinto later said its Oyu Tolgoi project was on track to reach commercial production in the first half of 2013. Investors will be closely eyeing China's purchasing manufacturing figures and the U.S. January jobs report, both due on Friday. "We think most markets had a very solid run yesterday and earlier today, and we could see a mild retracement setting in over the balance of the week, particularly if tomorrow's nonfarm payroll number disappoints," said analyst Edward Meir at INTL FC Stone in New York. Momentum may be hard to sustain before mid-February, with Lunar New Year looming in top consumer China, traders said. LME metal prices had been locked in a range for most of the month until this week and many analysts are wary about whether copper will be able to extend its rally when underlying demand in top consumer China was still lacklustre. Bonded stocks in China stood at about 900,000 to 1 million tonnes in the beginning of this year, three times more than the start of 2012, traders estimated this month. Nickel also touched a 3-1/2 month high, rising 0.5 percent to $18,471 a tonne. Tin added 0.3 percent to was $24,975 per tonne, zinc was virtually flat, up $1.25 at $2,156.25, lead rose 0.2 percent to $2,444.75 and aluminium added 0.2 percent to $2,108.75.
Metal Prices at 1504 GMT Comex copper in cents/lb, LME prices in $/T and SHFE prices in yuan/T
Metal Last Change Pct Move End 2012 Ytd Pct
COMEX Cu 374.05 -0.95 -0.25 365.25 2.41 LME Alum 2108.50 4.50 +0.21 2073.00 1.71 LME Cu 8221.25 -4.75 -0.06 7931.00 3.66 LME Lead 2444.50 39.50 +1.64 2330.00 4.91 LME Nickel 18480.00 105.00 +0.57 17060.00 8.32 LME Tin 24981.00 331.00 +1.34 23400.00 6.76 LME Zinc 2156.50 61.50 +2.94 2080.00 3.68 SHFE Alu 15250.00 50.00 +0.33 15435.00 -1.20 SHFE Cu* 59450.00 440.00 +0.75 57690.00 3.05 SHFE Zin 16015.00 235.00 +1.49 15625.00 2.50 ** Benchmark month for COMEX copper * 3rd contract month for SHFE AL, CU and ZN
SHFE ZN began trading on 26/3/07