Copper fell to its lowest level in more than a week on Friday as a second-straight month of soft US employment growth fed worries about the health of the global economy, while tight supplies of the metal outside of China kept losses in check.
Copper fell 3 per cent for the week, snapping two straight weeks of gains and falling in line with other growth-sensitive markets like equities and crude oil. Those markets fell after the Labour Department said US employers cut back on hiring in April more than expected.
Copper's losses paled in comparison with crude oil, which plunged over 3 per cent to trade below $100 for the first time since February.
"At their highs in March and April, the stock market and energy markets were pricing in a much stronger economy. Copper never really priced in that strong of an economy, so it doesn't have as much to take out," said James Bianco, president of Bianco Research Group in Chicago.
"You've got the US economy slowing, the Chinese economy slowing ... that's why we're nowhere near $4.50 per pound or why we never got over $4 this year."
London Metal Exchange (LME) benchmark copper plumbed an intra-day low at $8,146 per tonne, its cheapest level since April 25, before ending the day with a $54 loss at $8,175.
In New York, the Comex July contract fell 1.50 cents to settle at $3.7210 per pound after dealing between $3.7025 and $3.7550.
Volumes remained on the light side, with a little more than 54,000 lots traded late in New York — about a third below the 30-day norm, according to preliminary Thomson Reuters data.
US employers added just 115,000 workers to payrolls last month, or 55,000 less than economists expected. The unemployment rate fell to a three-year low at 8.1 per cent, but only because the workforce shrank as people retired or stopped looking for work.
"The macro numbers are becoming worse, especially in the US, so it's going to be difficult for a lot of these metals to hold up," Edward Meir, an analyst at INTL FCStone, said.
"The French elections will also be important, because then the euro might move on that and give the market a bit more direction," he said, referring to polls over the weekend.
Market players said they expect large Chinese copper smelters and trading firms to export refined copper cathodes to LME-registered warehouses over the next two months to help ease tight global supplies and trim near-record stockpiles at home.
As a result, thousands of tonnes of refined copper could go into LME warehouses, boosting inventories and slashing steep premiums of spot prices over those for later deliveries.