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LME METALS round-up: 15 March

The metal markets were torn between jumping on the bandwagon of the US economy that was said to be taking off or worrying that they would be grounded by the resulting firmer dollar. Furthermore, European news was still poor.

All markets were taken by surprise when the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the US economy had created a net 236,000 jobs in February. This was well above the 136,000 that markets were expecting, and suggested that the US economy may finally be starting to build up momentum. This impression was reinforced by the decline of the official unemployment rate to 7.7%, which did much to boost sentiment.

Nevertheless, new orders for manufactured goods dipped by 2% in January, after having risen by 1.3% in December. The Census Bureau noted that this indicator had now declined twice in the past three months.

The Eurostat statistical agency has revised its data for the fourth quarter of last year, but GDP in the eurozone still fell by 0.6% between the third and fourth quarters and by 0.5% across the whole EU27.

The European Central Bank (ECB), meanwhile, was forecasting that GDP in the eurozone will decline by between 0.9% and 0.1% this year but should grow by up to 2% next year. ECB president Mario Draghi noted that the revision for 2013 reflected a more negative carry-over from 2012, while the projected recovery remained broadly unchanged.

In addition, preliminary data from the German economics ministry showed new industrial orders falling by 1.9% in January, which was an unpleasant surprise after they had risen by 1.1% in December. Output of goods was unchanged in January after having risen by 0.6% in December.

Chinese trade data showed a surplus of $15.25bn (£10bn) in February, doing better than the forecasts of a $7bn deficit.

But inflation jumped to an annual rate of 3.2% in February, accelerating from 2% in January and exceeding forecasts of 3% for February.

And Japan’s GDP was revised to unchanged in the fourth quarter of last year, an improvement from the earlier figure of a 0.1% decline.

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