METALS-Copper slides to 2013 low on China, U.S. Fed
* Property curbs in China help undermine sentiment
* Many China consumers still away after Lunar New Year- trader
* Nickel, tin fall more than 3 pct
(Adds quotes, details; previous SINGAPORE) LONDON, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Copper slid to its weakest in nearly two months on Thursday on worries about the economy of top metals consumer China and on signs the United States may curb liquidity injections to the financial system. Other metals were also dragged lower as speculators liquidated positions, sending nickel to a near three-month low. Stronger economic data from China and the United States in recent months had bolstered the market, but a lack of underlying metals demand in China and news on Wednesday of curbs on the property sector there has hit sentiment. "Clearly the Chinese real estate market is very, very important both in terms of its confidence effects and the impact it has on the overall construction industry," said Nic Brown, head of commodities research at Natixis in London. China's cabinet on Wednesday restated its intention to extend a pilot property tax programme to more cities, in the latest effort to calm frothy real estate markets.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange fell 1.3 percent to $7,858.25 a tonne by 1123 GMT, adding to losses from the previous session when it saw its second-biggest single-day fall for the year. Copper touched an intraday low of $7,845 a tonne, its lowest since Dec. 24, pulling prices back into negative territory for the year. The most-traded May copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell 1.84 percent to 57,620 yuan ($9,200) a tonne after earlier hitting its lowest since December. Metals markets, also burdened by heavy stockpiles, were disappointed this week when an expected surge of buying from Chinese industrial users failed to materialise following the Lunar New Year holiday. "Until you see a stronger push from Chinese end-user demand feeding through into genuine demand for metal from outside the country, then there is a clear limit to what LME prices can do," Brown added. Risk-off sentiment was also driven by the minutes of the latest Federal Open Market Committee meeting that showed a number of officials think the central bank might have to slow or stop buying bonds before seeing the pickup in hiring the program is designed to deliver. "Overall the FOMC is the one people are watching," said Barclays commodity analyst Sijin Cheng in Singapore. "People do expect the Chinese government to promote moderate growth for 2013 so consensus is a modest recovery. Before physical demand really comes in from China or the U.S., I think copper will be dominated by macro sentiment." The foreign exchange market also weighed on metals. The dollar against a currency basket hit a three-month high, which makes metals priced in the U.S. currency more expensive to holders of other currencies.
NICKEL BIGGEST LOSER Sentiment was also shaken by talk in global markets overnight that a hedge fund had been liquidating large positions in commodities, but this was met with scepticism. Several traders said copper's losses were hastened by chart-based selling after prices fell through key levels of support at the 100-day moving average near $8,000 a tonne on Wednesday. "The reality is that last night the dollar was strong and all commodities sold off," said one trader based in Singapore. Copper's losses dragged on other metals. Nickel and tin were the biggest losers, dropping more than 3 percent. Nickel tumbled 3.2 percent to $16,620 a tonne, its lowest since Nov. 27, and tin gave up 3.1 percent to $23,001 a tonne, the weakest in two months. Aluminium shed 1.3 percent to $2,076 a tonne, the softest since Jan. 30, zinc lost 1.5 percent to $2,102 and lead fell 1.9 percent to $2,306.25.
PRICES Metal Prices at 1126 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 356.00 -4.80 -1.33 365.25 -2.53 LME Alum 2076.75 -26.25 -1.25 2073.00 0.18 LME Cu 7861.75 -188.25 -2.34 7931.00 -0.87 LME Lead 2308.25 -41.75 -1.78 2330.00 -0.93 LME Nickel 16632.00 -538.00 -3.13 17060.00 -2.51 LME Tin 23001.00 -724.00 -3.05 23400.00 -1.71 LME Zinc 2103.00 -30.00 -1.41 2080.00 1.11 SHFE Alu 14965.00 -125.00 -0.83 15435.00 -3.05 SHFE Cu* 57620.00 -1080.00 -1.84 57690.00 -0.12 SHFE Zin 15640.00 -260.00 -1.64 15625.00 0.10 ** Benchmark month for COMEX copper * 3rd contract month for SHFE AL, CU and ZN
SHFE ZN began trading on 26/3/07
($1 = 6.2376 Chinese yuan)
(Additional reporting by Melanie Burton; editing by Keiron Henderson)