London 15/03/2012 - Base metals ranged narrowly during Thursday LME pre-market trading, with a spell of short-term consolidation and sideways price movements developing, reflecting a similar pattern and tone in wider markets.
"It is just a little bit directionless at the moment but it is still relatively firm, given the general picture," a trader said.
There is little solid direction to be gleaned from equity markets, traders said, while the eurozone sovereign debt situation has calmed for now. Still, the weakness of the euro and some nascent worries about the pace and extent of China's economy are negative factors.
"China does appear to be slowing down and it does appear to some that it is heading for a hard landing or may already be there," the trader said.
The euro again threatened to drop below 1.30 against the dollar, touching a one-month low of 1.3001 before holding around a steady 1.3045.
For the metals, activity is expected to remain low-key ahead of a whole series of US economic reports this afternoon, which may kick-start movements in other markets and flow through into the complex.
Figures scheduled for release include the Empire State and Philly Fed manufacturing indices, February PPI, January TIC long-term purchases and weekly unemployment claims. The ECB will also publish its monthly bulletin and employment report.
COPPER NUDGES HIGHER, OTHERS SWING ROUTINELY
Copper moved away from early lows near $8,400 to trade at $8,470 per tonne, a $10 advance from Wednesday. The market stalled overhead near $8,600 yesterday, which has now become the ceiling of a $200 short-term range.
Warehouse inventories fell 2,875 tonnes to 267,750 tonnes, the 16th successive daily decline, with the stockpile at a fresh low since July 2009.
Aluminium was hardly moving - recent business at $2,234 was $5 higher. The usual pattern of inventory declines was interrupted, with stocks climbing 1,675 tonnes to 5,073,350 tonnes. The increase was due to an 8,125-tonne warranting in Vlissingen.
In other metals, nickel fell back to $19,250, a $325 loss, as yesterday's technical momentum slowed. Stocks climbed 444 tonnes to 97,170 tonnes. Zinc traded at $2,068, a $6 loss, with inventories rising 125 tonnes to 867,700 tonnes.
Lead business at $2,106 was just $4 higher after stocks fell 125 tonnes to 365,100 tonnes. Tin traded at an unchanged $23,800, while stocks remained static at 11,570 tonnes.
Steel billet eased $5 to $520 but stocks fell 780 tonnes to 59,280 tonnes, the lowest since November 18, 2010. Both cobalt and molybdenum were neglected.
(Editing by Mark Shaw)