COMMODITIES-Copper down on China worry; gold slips ahead of Fed

NEW YORK, July 30 Tue Jul 30, 2013 11:26pm BST

NEW YORK, July 30 (Reuters) - Commodity prices mostly fell on Tuesday, with copper leading the losses on gloomy factory data expected from top buyer China, and oil settling lower after a recent rally in U.S. crude was deemed excessive.

Gold also slipped as investors awaited a policy statement on Wednesday from the U.S. Federal Reserve after a two-day meeting of the central bank, which investors hoped would provide new clues about the tapering off of the U.S. stimulus program.

The 19-commodity Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index settled down 0.7 percent, extending the previous session's loss of 0.3 percent.

Other markets that ended in negative territory were soybeans , natural gas, aluminum and silver, all of which fell at least 1 percent.

Copper closed 2 percent down, touching its weakest levels in nearly three weeks, as expectations of weak manufacturing data from top consumer China dimmed prospects for growth in the demand for metals. Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange closed at $6,735 a tonne, a low since July 10.

Investor sentiment for copper turned negative on the belief that activity in China's vast manufacturing sector contracted in July for the first time in 10 months, according to a Reuters poll.

The closely watched purchasing managers' indexes (PMI), barometers for China's factory sector, could produce the lowest reading since September 2012, Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg said.

"The whole industrial metals complex is under pressure and it is very much about China," he said.

U.S. crude fell $1.47 to settle at $103.08 per barrel after news that BP Plc would start up several more units at its revamped Whiting, Indiana, refinery spurred selling in a market that hit 16-month highs last week.

Data from the industry's American Petroleum Institute showed that U.S. commercial crude oil stockpiles dropped for the fifth straight week, falling 740,000 barrels last week, less than the 2.3 million barrels forecast in a Reuters poll of 10 analysts.

In gold, the spot price of bullion was down 58 cents at $1,326.41 an ounce by 3:03 p.m. EDT (1903 GMT), having traded in a narrow $10 range.

Gold plunged 5 percent at the end of June after the Fed's policy meeting gave the most explicit signal on the central bank's plans to wind down the era of easy money. Fed chief Ben Bernanke's subsequent remarks about the need to keep a stimulative policy in place given low inflation and an uncertain market triggered a rebound in the metal's price.