Copper prices fell to a three-week low on Tuesday, as investors looked ahead to first quarter GDP data from China on Wednesday, which could show the pace of growth in the world’s second largest economy has slowed further.
On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, copper for May delivery touched an intraday low of $2.678 a pound, the weakest level since March 20, before trading at $2.684 during European morning hours, down 3.5 cents, or 1.28%.
A day earlier, copper declined 1.5 cents, or 0.55%, to close at $2.719. Futures were likely to find support at $2.644, the low from March 20, and resistance at $2.762, the high from April 13.
First quarter growth data due Wednesday is expected to show China’s economy grew 7.0%, slowing from 7.3% in the preceding quarter. Beijing has set a growth target of “around 7.0%” in 2015 after the economy grew 7.4% in 2014, the slowest pace in 24 years.
On Monday, China reported a trade surplus of $3.08 billion in March, compared to expectations for a surplus of $45.4 billion and down from a surplus of $60.6 in February.
Copper drops to 3-week low ahead of China GDP report
Exports tumbled 15.0% from a year earlier last month, disappointing expectations for a 12.0% increase, while imports sank 12.7%, worse than forecasts for a decline of 11.7%.
The slide in imports pointed to persistent weakness in the economy, fuelling speculation policymakers will do more to boost growth.
The Asian nation is the world’s largest copper consumer, accounting for almost 40% of world consumption last year.
Elsewhere on the Comex, gold futures for June delivery shed $8.60, or 0.72%, to trade at $1,190.70 a troy ounce, while silver futures for May delivery slumped 17.9 cents, or 1.1% to trade at $16.11 an ounce.
Investors looked ahead to U.S. retail sales data later in the session for further indications on the strength of the economy and the timing of an interest rate hike.
The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, was up 0.15% to trade at 99.90 early on Tuesday.
Demand for the greenback remained broadly supported by expectations for higher interest rates, as investors regained confidence that the U.S. economy would continue to recover after recent economic reports pointed to a slowdown at the start of the year.