By STEVE ROTHWELLNEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Copper fell to its lowest in more than three months following a slowdown in growth in Chinese manufacturing. The May contract for copper fell 4.65 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $3.5010 per pound. The metal is trading at its lowest since November and has slumped 7.4 percent since Feb. 1. China is the world's largest consumer of copper, and signs that Chinese demand may slow typically push the metal's price lower. The price of copper, which has many industrial uses, tends to track the outlook for global economic growth. A survey released Friday suggested continued weakness in European manufacturing, which also weighed on copper prices. A significant build-up of inventories is also hurting prices, said Edward Meir, a senior commodities analyst at INTL FCStone. In other metals trading, gold, palladium and platinum also fell. Silver bucked the trend and edged higher after losing almost 3 percent in the previous two days of trading. The lure of precious metals as an alternative investment has waned this year as the stock market has rallied and the dollar has strengthened. Commodities are typically priced in dollars and as the currency rallies, producers demand fewer dollars for their output. The dollar index, which measures the strength of the U.S. currency against a basket of currencies, has risen 4 percent in the last month. Gold for April delivery fell $5.80, or 0.4 percent, to $1,572.30 an ounce. Palladium for June delivery dropped $14.50, or 1.9 percent, to $702.40 an ounce and platinum for April fell $10, or 0.6 percent, to $1,573.50 an ounce. Silver for May edged higher, gaining 5.8 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $28.49 an ounce. In agricultural commodities trading, wheat and corn rose, and soybeans fell. Wheat for May delivery rose 6 cents to $7.2050 a bushel, corn for the same month rose 5 cents to $7.085 a bushel.
May soybeans fell 8.75 cents to $14.435 a bushel.In energy trading, oil fell to its lowest level of the year. Benchmark crude for April delivery fell $1.37 to close at $90.68 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline was up 1.69 cents to $3.1286 a gallon. Heating oil fell 3 cents to 2.9301 a gallon. Natural gas fell 3 cents to finish at $3.456 per 1,000 cubic feet.