Copper prices fall on discouraging economic news

AP News
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Posted: May 31, 2012 5:01 PM
Copper prices fall on discouraging economic news

Copper is falling again, wrapping up a particularly bleak May.

Many investors consider copper to be a reliable barometer for the health of the global economy because it has so many uses in construction and manufacturing. When those industries are healthy, demand for copper tends to increase.

By that measure, things aren't looking great.

A closely watched index of factory output in the Chicago region fell for a third straight month to the lowest reading since September 2009. The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago warned that three consecutive declines have been associated with the onset of last seven national recessions.

In addition, new reports point to weakness in the U.S. The government said the economy grew at a 1.9 percent rate in the first quarter, slower than previously estimated. Applications for unemployment also rose last week.

Meanwhile, Europe is still struggling with its financial troubles and China is working to stimulate its slower economic growth.

Copper for July delivery dropped an additional 2.4 cents Thursday to finish at $3.3655 per pound. That left the price down 12 percent for the month.

The next key report comes Friday when the government releases May employment figures. Economists have predicted 158,000 jobs were created during the month. Kingsview Financial analyst Matt Zeman said that more pressure will hit the commodities market if the report misses expectations.

Most analysts don't expect to see much improvement in commodity prices until there are signs that Europe is making progress with its debt crisis and the results are in from a June election that could decide whether Greece stays in the group of countries that use the euro.

Most commodities ended the day lower.

Gold for August delivery fell $1.50 to end at $1,564.20 an ounce, July silver fell 22.6 cents to $27.757 per ounce, July platinum rose $16.40 to $1,417.60 an ounce and September palladium rose $7.40 to $613.90 an ounce.

Crude oil dropped $1.29 to finish at $86.53 per barrel in New York. Heating oil fell 3.36 cents to $2.7062 per gallon, gasoline futures decreased 3.32 cents to $2.825 per gallon and natural gas rose 0.4 cent to $2.422 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In July agricultural crop contracts, wheat fell 10 cents to end at $6.4375 per bushel, corn decreased 4.25 cents to $5.5525 per bushel and soybeans declined 33.25 cents to $13.40 per bushel.

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AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.