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Copper Market Update By Georgi Kantchev

 

 Copper futures drifted lower on the London Metal Exchange in thin trade Wednesday despite upbeat ecocnomic numbers out of China.

 The LME's three month copper contract was down 0.1% at $5779.00 a metric ton in mid-day European trade.

 The latest manufacturing gauge in China, the world's biggest consumer of copper, showed a modest improvement in February. The preliminary HSBC China Manufacturing PMI rose to 50.1 compared with a final redaing of 49.7 in January, data showed. A number above 50 indicates expansion in the sector.

 "The China data was rather positive but is good data for the market? I am not so sure as worse-than-expected numbers could have meant support by the central bank is in the cards," said Daniel Briesemann, a metals analyst at Commerzbank.

 Market action on Wednesday was light with many traders in Asiastill on holiday because of Chinese Lunar New Year. The copper price has been stabilizing in recent weeks after its large falls last year. But market participants see the return of the key Asian market as an important determinant of price direction.

 Among other base metals, Aluminum was 0.5% lower at $1800.50 a ton, zinc was down 0.1% at $2,068.50 a ton, nickel rose 0.4% to $14,390.00 a ton, lead was up 0.2% at $1,773.50 a ton and tin was up 0.1% at $18,070.00