Chinese demand still a question

November 11, 2015 09:12 AM

Copper prices teetered near a six-year low on Wednesday and the dollar pulled back slightly, after mixed Chinese data showed growth in the world's second-biggest economy was still in low gear.

China's October industrial production growth cooled to 5.6 % year-on-year, slightly lower than the 5.8 % gain economists polled by Reuters had expected, though it was cushioned by a just-above-forecast 11 % jump in retail sales.

That left financial markets with a divided feel as the prospect of the first rise in U.S. interest rates in almost a decade but also another shot of stimulus from the European Central Bank continued to muddy the waters too.

Europe's main markets were having the best day of the month so far with London's FTSE, Germany's DAX and France's CAC40 up 0.5, 1.1 and 0.8 % respectively after a late rally had helped Chinese shares end Asia's session marginally higher.

With risk appetite gaining, Wall Street was expected to follow suit when it resumes, although trading is likely to be thinned with Treasury bond and some other U.S. markets closed for Veteran's Day.

Benchmark European bond market yields and the euro were sliding again on the ECB bets as the wobbles in China left copper - China's growth hungry economy is its biggest consumer - near its lowest since mid-2009 at $4,914 a tonne.

Zinc and lead, two other industrial metals, hit multi-year lows as well.

"China's recovery is slow. It's really affecting all the base metals," said analyst Helen Lau of broker Argonaut Securities in Hong Kong.

In the currency markets, the dollar, which has been on a charge since strong U.S. jobs data last week boosted the chances of Federal Reserve rate hike next month, took a bit of a breather.

The dollar index eased away from a seven-month peak to slip 0.1 % to 99.183 although it was starting to find some renewed traction against the yen as it steadied itself at 123.13 in the first flurry of New York deals.

Its earlier dip gave some respite to emerging market currencies and the euro trudged back down toward $1.07 ahead of a speech in London by ECB President Mario Draghi and in Madrid by the bank's number two, Vitor Constancio.

"Market expectations of further ECB QE are high," said Alan Higgins, chief investment officer at Coutts in London. "He (Draghi) has to deliver (at next month's ECB meeting) and it has to be something substantial otherwise the euro is going to shoot up."


Overnight in Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan ended barely changed as China's late bounce and modest gains in Australia and in Tokyo offset a 1.4 % drop in Taiwan.

A Reuters survey showed confidence among Japanese manufacturers fell in November for a third straight month to levels unseen in about 2-1/2 years, which was evidence that concerns about Chinese demand linger.

Bank in Europe, sterling lost some of the ground it had made overnight, dropping as low as $1.5131 after UK jobs data showed wages growing more slowly than expected despite the lowest level of unemployment since early 2008.

Portuguese bond yields rose back toward four-month highs after left-wing parties ousted the austerity-minded center-right government in Lisbon.

Two-year German government bond yields, meanwhile, slipped to within a whisker of recent record lows amid mounting expectations of further ECB stimulus.

The dollar's recent strength and the China uncertainty continued to weigh on commodities prices.

Compounding at least half decade-lows for copper, zinc and lead, oil prices resumed their decline on news that U.S. crude stocks jumped last week. WTI crude lost 60 cents to $43.60 a barrel, while Brent shed 32 cents to $47.12.

"I see some bright spots and some continued softness (in the China data), however there is a definite bearish tone from Chinese and Asian speculators," said Vivienne Lloyd, a metals analyst at Macquarie in London.

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