LME MORNING - Base metals edge higher but quiet ahead of US non-farm payrolls data

By: Barbara Davis

London 07/10/2011 - Base metals ticked higher on the LME on Friday morning in thin volumes while traders await a crucial US employment report this afternoon.

Copper rose above the psychologically important $7,000 mark, while most of the rest were towards the top of their intraday ranges.

Yesterday, the European Central Bank (ECB) renewed its commitment to provide liquidity to the eurozone banks, while the Bank of England announced an additional 75 billion pounds of asset purchasing, which was a shot in the arm for optimism.

Datawise, a slew of economic numbers are due for release. Investors will focus mainly on US employment data for September later today, for which an improvement is expected, following reports earlier this week of faster-than-expected growth in service industries.  

"Today's non-farm payroll data should have some impact, with forecasts suggesting that job creation rose to 55,000 last month from zero in the previous month," a trader said.

Although the tone during LME Week was almost unanimously bearish, some market observers now see the complex as oversold.

“It looks as though there is more room on the upside,” FastMarkets' William Adams said. “During LME Week we felt most people were not optimistic but, having already seen hefty price falls, it may be that the feeling is a lot of the bad news is already in the price - at least for now.”


FINDING A FLOOR IN METAL PRICES

A rally in base metals on Thursday was a welcome sign that markets may have found a bottom for now.

But while this initially appears promising, “traders have become wary of the up one-down the next syndrome predicated by the often opposing news stories coming out of Europe this past month”, broker RBC said.

Copper recently traded at $7,290 per tonne, up $65. Stocks fell once again, dropping a net 4,625 tonnes to 467,100 tonnes. Cancelled warrants also declined, dropping 5,175 tonnes to 54,825 tonnes.

CME group raised margin requirements for copper futures contracts on Comex by 15 percent "to ensure adequate collateral coverage", it said. From today, the margin on an initial contract stands at $7,763, up from $6,750, and $5,750 on a maintenance contract, up from $5,000.

Aluminium was $4 higher at $2,228 although inventories fell 3,025 tonnes to 4,548,725 tonnes. Cancelled warrants fell 1,650 tonnes to 237,650 tonnes.

Demand for aluminium is slowing but not dramatically, with Asia holding up well, North America flat and Europe faring worst, a Rio Tinto Alcan executive said, RBC reported earlier this week.

Nickel was slightly lower, dropping $182 to $18,800. Stocks fell 618 tonnes to 94,266 tonnes and cancelled warrants fell 588 tonnes to 6,462 tonnes.

Zinc edged up to $1,875, a rise of $8, after inventories fell 2,800 tonnes to 807,925 tonnes although cancelled warrants also declined, dropping 2,725 tonnes to 76,800 dropping.

Lead was also higher at $1,944, up $22, while stocks fell 475 tonnes from an all-time high to 380,400 tonnes. Tin recently traded at $22,725, up $600.

Steel billet was last indicated at $540/558. In the minors, cobalt was indicated at $30,000/34,000 and molybdenum at $29,000/31,300.

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