METALS-Copper crumbles amid Chinese demand doubts

 * Copper sinks as Chinese demand worries mount
 * Copper stocks in China, LME warehouses in the spotlight
 * U.S. copper runs into technical support at 100-day MA
 * Coming up; Chinese manufacturing data Friday
 (Recasts, updates with U.S. copper closing, adds graphic,
analyst comments and NEW YORK dateline/byline)
 By Chris Kelly and Rebekah Curtis
 NEW YORK/LONDON, March 30 (Reuters) - Copper prices ended
sharply lower on Wednesday, on pace for their biggest monthly
decline since June 2010, as weaker demand cues from China and
fears about a moderation in the global economic recovery kept
many bulls sidelined.
 Chinese monetary tightening measures, coupled with unrest
in the Middle East, rising oil prices, euro zone debt problems
and Japan's nuclear crisis have all combined to throw the
magnitude of the global economic recovery into question, and
with it, demand for raw materials.
 As a result, copper prices have responded, falling more
than 12 percent from their mid-February peaks at $10,190 per
tonne in London and $4.6575 per lb in New York, before
recovering to stand in aimless ranges at quarter's end.
 "From a fundamental standpoint, it's leading a lot of
people to question whether or not they want to remain long
copper going into a new quarter," said Adam Sarhan, chief
executive of Sarhan Capital in New York.
 London Metal Exchange copper for three-month delivery
(CMCU3: Quote, Profile, Research) dropped $209 to close at $9,381 a tonne, on track for a
5 percent fall in March, its first monthly decline since June
2010.
 U.S. copper (HGK1: Quote, Profile, Research) followed suit, extending a downtrend in
place since mid-February before running into some technical
support near its 100-day simple moving average.
 (Graphic: http://link.reuters.com/zes78r )
 It settled down 7.25 cents at $4.2740 per lb.
 Trading volumes began to perk up, with more than 47,000
lots traded by 2:24 p.m. EDT (1924 GMT). This was the first
time volume topped 47,000 lots since March 17, according to
preliminary Thomson Reuters data.
 "All the bets were put on China," said Eugen Weinberg, an
analyst at Commerzbank. "Sentiment in China is not as rosy and
not as upbeat as sentiment in Europe or the U.S."
 That being said, attention will now turn to Chinese
manufacturing data on Friday, where market participants will
see if the country's vast manufacturing sector will recover
from the six-month low hit in February. [ID:nL3E7ET1H8]
 "Are they going to maintain the growth, given that the auto
sector is in doubt and imports are trending lower," asked Bart
Melek, vice president and director of commodities, rates
research & strategy with TD Bank Financial Group. "It's
expected to move up by consensus a bit, but, if it's a
disappointment, watch out."
 Despite the more cautious Chinese outlook, Jiangxi Copper
Co Ltd (0358.HK: Quote, Profile, Research)(600362.SS: Quote, Profile, Research), the country's largest copper
producer, expects China's consumption to rise by 10 percent to
12 percent this year and plans a 60 percent rise in its own
production capacity by 2015. [ID:nL3E7EU1D3]
 Even data showing strong hiring by U.S. private employers
failed to give the market a boost, as investors awaited
Friday's closely watched government report on non-farm
payrolls. [ID:nN30275708]
 TRADITIONALLY STRONG QUARTER
 Traders and analysts are waiting to see what will happen in
the second quarter, traditionally the strongest in terms of
demand, when China normally buys ahead of a pick-up in
construction activity in the third quarter.
 "Anecdotally, something in the region of 600,000 tonnes of
refined copper currently (sits) in bonded warehouses in
Shanghai, with perhaps another 100,000 tonnes in the southern
ports," Standard Bank said in a note.
 Also in the spotlight are LME stocks of copper, which added
225 tonnes on Wednesday, bringing total warehouse levels to
439,725 tonnes, their highest since last July.  (0#LME-STOCKS: Quote, Profile, Research)
 In other metals, aluminium (CMAL3: Quote, Profile, Research) came within $2 of
Tuesday's session peak at $2,656 per tonne, its highest since
September 2008, before ending down $19 at $2,629.
 Metal Prices at 3:48 p.m. EDT (1948 GMT)
 COMEX copper in cents/lb, LME prices in $/T and SHFE prices in
yuan/T
 Metal        Last      Change  Pct Move   End 2010   YTD Pct
                                                    move
 COMEX Cu     426.85     -7.80     -1.79     444.70    -4.01
 LME Alum    2629.00    -19.00     -0.72    2470.00     6.44
 LME Cu      9380.00   -210.00     -2.19    9600.00    -2.29
 LME Lead    2655.00    -30.00     -1.12    2550.00     4.12
 LME Nickel 26025.00   -575.00     -2.16   24750.00     5.15
 LME Tin    31225.00   -525.00     -1.65   26900.00    16.08
 LME Zinc    2335.00    -40.00     -1.68    2454.00    -4.85
 SHFE Alu   16835.00      5.00     +0.03   16840.00    -0.03
 SHFE Cu*   71300.00    470.00     +0.66   71850.00    -0.77
 SHFE Zin   18375.00     95.00     +0.52   19475.00    -5.65
** Benchmark month for COMEX copper
* 3rd contract month for SHFE AL, CU and ZN
SHFE ZN began trading on 26/3/07
 (Additional reporting by Pratima Desai in London; Editing by
Walter Bagley)


METALS-Copper crumbles amid Chinese demand doubts