Copper dives to 8-week low

In early New York trade on Thursday, December copper came under renewed pressure, diving to a low of $3.1180 a pound after weak data out of China and Europe and the prospect of new supply coming onto the market hurt sentiment.

The pullback to levels last seen June 20 came after data on lending, output and spending for July from the Chinese central bank showed that after a strong second quarter the world's second largest economy slowed at the start of the third quarter.

Chinese banks' extension of new credit slumped in July to the lowest level since the global financial crisis while conditions in the already struggling property sector were also bleaker than expected.

Residential property sales fell by 17.9% in July compared to 2013, while developers’ inventories of unsold properties rose further and are now 25% higher than a year ago.

China's property sector which has enjoyed years of red-hot growth, is a key component of its economy and also accounts for a big chunk of copper demand.

China consumers some 45% of the world's refined copper, but the country's imports fell 3% in July, the third straight month of losses, to 340,000 tonnes. However, year to date China is still importing refined copper at a record setting pace – up more than 20% over 2013 to 2.84 million tonnes.

China's ambitious plans to expand its power grid could offer a boost to copper demand later in the year if a corruption probe at China’s state-owned electricity company – the globe's largest utility – is completed reports the FT:

“We have been surprised how well copper has held up until now, especially since the big demand story – purchasing by China Grid Corporation – has not really hit the market because of a corruption probe into the tendering process,” [David Wilson, analyst at Citi] said. “A lot of that tendering has got to hit the market and if that happens before the end of the year that will be pretty positive for copper.”

News out on Thursday that countries making up the European Union could be sliding back into recession also dampened sentiment after the bloc's largest economy – Germany – recorded an economic contraction in the second quarter.

The price of the red metal has also come under pressure from the prospect of at least 756,000 tonnes of concentrate (holding roughly 225,000 tonnes of metal) coming onto the market as Freeport McMoRan (NYSE:FCX) restarts exporting copper concentrate from Indonesia after a six-month hiatus.

The copper market is expected to be in a 226,000 tonne surplus by the end of 2014, a Reuters poll in July showed, with the surplus seen rising to 285,000 tonnes in 2015.