Copper prices fell Thursday ahead of a key U.S. jobs report that could shed more light on the pace of U.S. economic growth.
Investors sold copper to take profits because of ongoing concerns about the slowing global economy, particularly the impact that Europe's sovereign debt crisis may have on demand.
The government reports Friday on how many jobs the nation created in January and the unemployment rate. In December, employers added 200,000 jobs, and the rate was 8.5 percent.
Copper often is considered a gauge of economic health because it is used in a wide range of products from building pipes and wires to consumer electronics. The price has risen about 10 percent this year on signs that the U.S. economy is getting healthier.
Phillip Streible, a senior commodities broker for R.J. O'Brien, said he thinks the price may continue to fall until investors have a better idea of what's ahead for the global economy.
Copper for March delivery declined 6.1 cents, or 1.6 percent, to finish at $3.781 per pound.
Other commodities were mostly higher on mixed economic news.
Weekly unemployment claims fell 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000, the Labor Department said. The four-week moving average fell to 375,750, the lowest since June 2008.
But the January retail sales picture was divided. Discount and high-end stores fared well but many mid-priced clothing chains were hurt because of the unseasonably mild weather.
With the exception of copper, metals finished higher. Gold for April delivery rose $9.80 to finish at $1,759.30 per ounce. March silver increased 36.8 cents to finish at $34.175 per ounce, April platinum rose $6.70 to $1,629.90 an ounce and March palladium ended up $10.95 at $707.65 per ounce.
Energy prices were mixed. Natural gas climbed 7.2 percent after the government said supplies shrank last week. The price rose 17.2 cents to finish at $2.554 per 1,000 cubic feet on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That's up about 23 cents from a 10-year low that was hit last month
Benchmark crude fell $1.25 to end at $96.36 per barrel, heating oil rose 0.74 cent to $3.0529 per gallon and gasoline futures declined 2.33 cents to $2.8689 per gallon.
In March agriculture contracts, wheat fell 11.5 cents to finish at $6.6275 per bushel, corn rose 1 cent to $6.43 per bushel and soybeans ended up 1.75 cents at $12.17 per bushel.