Copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) has clawed back some ground to close flat, while nickel held onto gains.
At the close of open outcry trading in the London ring on Wednesday, LME three-month copper was flat at $US6,670 a metric ton.
Aluminium didn’t track the red metal higher, closing 0.8 per cent lower at $US1,874.50 a ton.
The preliminary HSBC China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index, a gauge of nationwide manufacturing activity, had dented copper prices early in the session as it rose only slightly to 48.3 in April. This compared with a final reading of 48.0 in March, HSBC Holdings PLC said on Wednesday.
China accounts for 40 per cent of the world’s copper consumption and thus manufacturing activity data there are keenly watched by investors for clues regarding future copper demand.
But prices were lifted after a later data release showed US factory activity continues to expand. The flash purchasing managers’ index compiled by data provider Markit was little changed at 55.4 in April from a final March reading of 55.5. A reading above 50 indicates expansion. Still, the fundamental picture for the red metal remained unclear.
“A mid-afternoon surge has helped the copper price … but overall the picture looks grimmer,” said Chris Beauchamp, a market analyst at IG.
“Reports indicate that supply is going to become more plentiful as the Congo and Mongolia boost exports, while the China PMI remained in contraction territory, even if it was a modest improvement over the prior month,” he noted, adding “there seems to be little capable of driving the price much higher in the short term”.
LME three-month nickel closed 0.3 per cent higher on the day at $US18,380 a ton.
Nickel prices have surged by more than 30 per cent in the year-to-date, aided by global supply concerns amid an ore-export ban in Indonesia and persistent tensions over Ukraine, as Russia is a major supplier.