NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Copper prices were weakening after a drop in Chinese imports of the red metal in May disappointed investors' expectations for stronger global demand.

Copper prices are down 6 cents to $4.04 a pound on the Comex in New York.

The three-month benchmark for copper on the London Metal Exchange closed down by 1% to $8,966 a metric ton. The August copper benchmark on the Shanghai Futures Exchange closed about flat on Thursday at $4.74 per pound.

Copper imports to China in May slumped 36% from a year earlier as the world's largest consumer of copper products imported a total of 254,738 tons last month, according to Bloomberg.

China is currently in a de-stocking cycle because the country is bracing for an economic slowdown, putting pressure on copper prices, said Phil Streible, senior market strategist at Lind-Waldock. Also, the inverse relationship between dollar and copper is holding today as the dollar index is rallying quite a bit, said Streible.

The dollar is currently up 0.56% at $74.54 compared to a basket of currencies.

Recently, the copper market has seen lower highs and lower lows, said Streible. Even as copper prices have rallied in the last two weeks, trading volume was quite light, he noted. One key factor to watch in the next weeks is whether an escalation of the European debt problem will put downward pressure on copper. In general however, investors think copper prices will pick up toward the end of the year as China finishes tightening credit lending and as the U.S. sees more stability in its markets, explained Streible.

Copper mining stocks were declining this morning. Mining company Southern Copper ( SCCO) is down 2.2% at $31.39. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold ( FCX) is dipping 1.0% at $49.34.

-- Written by Chao Deng in New York.

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