London 15/08/2013 - Base metals held close to overnight levels in low-key Thursday LME premarket trading in Europe, showing signs of drifting, but most were settling into short-term ranges, traders said.
"London trading began on the back foot as markets are awaiting a raft of US data out later today," one trader said.
European holidays today - many centres there are closed - means that the focus is on the US data-stream. This kicks off early this afternoon with the regular weekly jobless claims figures, while other key releases include the Empire State and Philly Fed manufacturing indices, capacity utilisation, industrial production and the NAHB housing market index.
Activity and upside drive have faded since the start of the week, when prices reached two-month highs. But the bias remains higher, given a favourable run of Chinese economic reports last week and consistent expectations that the US economic path suggests that monetary stimulus is nearing the point of being reined in.
Better-than-expected economic releases from Europe on Wednesday - positive French and German growth numbers - had also supported metals prices, broker Credit Suisse noted.
But the trend in metals prices seems to be on hold for now - other commodity markets are seeing reduced risk appetite. Elsewhere, the euro nudged higher to around a steadier 1.3290 against the dollar.
"With the dollar edging lower again, we would not be surprised if the metals try higher again but for now they remain in consolidation mode so we would wait for them to show their hand," William Adams of FastMarkets said.
COPPER SWINGS AROUND $7,300 STILL, WAREHOUSE STOCKS FALL FURTHER
In the metals, copper continued to swing around $7,300, ranging some $40 either side of this pivot point and settling at $7,307 per tonne, a $9 decline from the Wednesday close. Warehouse stocks fell for the 22nd day in a row - down a net 4,250 tonnes at 584,200 tonnes, a new four-month low.
The market was watching Chile, where a surprise mining strike brought operations to a halt at BHP Billiton's copper operations on Wednesday, industry sources said.
"Market participants will be assessing whether the strike will have significant impact on production before a strong leg higher," broker ANZ said.
Aluminium mulled a retest of $1,900 and the two-month highs from Monday of $1,904.75, trading recently at $1,902, a $10 gain. Stocks were down for the seventh day in a row, falling 7,650 tonnes to 5,444,475 tonnes.
In others, zinc traded at $1,962, up $7 - inventories were down 2,650 tonnes at 1,039,875 tonnes. Lead triggered buy-stops up a two-month high of $2,218.50, up $9.50, with stocks down 3,050 tonnes at 191,975 tonnes.
Nickel traded at $14,932, down $63, with stocks climbing 66 tonnes to 205,878 tonnes, just 12 tonnes below all-time highs. Tin at $21,860 was $65 lower, with stocks unchanged at 14,055 tonnes.
Steel billet was neglected - stocks fell 65 tonnes to a 13-month low of 38,935 tonnes. The minors were unquoted but there was a 12-tonne decline in molybdenum stocks to 204 tonnes.
(Editing by Mark Shaw)