LONDON- Copper prices drifted sideways on Wednesday ahead of U.S. jobs data later in the week which is expected to give more direction on the timing of stimulus tapering.
Market watchers will look for signs that the U.S Federal Reserve will pull back its support for the world's largest economy, which was battered by COVID-19. Tapering has implications for liquidity in financial markets.
Benchmark copper CMCU3 on the London Metal Exchange had eased 0.1% to $9,527.50 per tonne by 1130 GMT, after trading marginally higher.
"Copper is trading in a narrow range with not much direction. The market is waiting for a clearer signal from non-farm payrolls on Friday," said ING analyst Wenyu Yao.
The dollar hovered near recent lows, making greenback-priced metals cheaper for holders of other currencies.
Meanwhile, concerns about rising cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 dampened the demand outlook especially in China which consumes half of global copper supplies.
SERVICES: Growth in China's services sector accelerated in July to the highest since May, a private survey showed on Wednesday, pointing to a steady recovery in the world's second largest economy.
STIMULUS: China may need more monetary and fiscal easing to halt an economic slowdown in the wake of torrential rains and flooding, and authorities' tough response to outbreaks of the highly-transmissible coronavirus Delta variant, economists say.
CHINA DEMAND: The Yangshan premium, a closely watched indicator of import demand in China, climbed to its highest since April at $53 a tonne.
SUPPLY: Top copper miner Codelco's June output rose 14.9% year-on-year to 151,600 tonnes, while production at the world's biggest copper mine Escondida fell 21.6% in the same period.
OTHER METALS: Aluminium shed 0.3% to $2,579 a tonne, zinc was steady at $2,972, lead rose 0.5% to $2,385, tin was barely changed at $34,650 and nickel was up 0.3% to $19,440.
(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing by Kirsten Donovan) ((firstname.lastname@example.org))