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Copper Rises to Record, Aluminum, Nickel Climb as China Grows

Copper rose to a record on signs demand will remain robust in China, the world’s biggest consumer of the metal used in cars, homes and appliances. Aluminum and nickel climbed to two-year highs.

China’s manufacturing expanded last month, according to data from the country’s logistics federation and a purchasing managers’ index from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics. Global economic growth of 4 percent this year and next will mean similar gains in industrial-metals demand for both years, led by increases for aluminum and nickel, Credit Agricole SA said.

“We’ve got a reasonably positive view of the global economy, with Asia leading the way, but the U.S. is accelerating and in Europe, the data isn’t too bad,” said Robin Bhar, an analyst at Credit Agricole in London. “Copper and tin would be right at the top of the favorites list because of lack of supply. Aluminum is a very good demand story.”

Copper futures for March delivery jumped 8.85 cents, or 2 percent, to close at $4.547 a pound at 1:22 p.m. on the Comex in New York. The price reached an all-time high of $4.551.

On the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months advanced $200, or 2.1 percent, to $9,945 a metric ton ($4.51 a pound). The price reached a record $9,968.

“Underlying fundamentals on the copper market remain healthy,” Merrill Lynch said today in a report. “A raft of supportive macroeconomic data” from China and the U.S. signal that copper is a “buy,” analysts including London-based Michael Widmer said.

The metal will average $11,250 in 2011, the bank said, repeating a December forecast.

Aluminum, Nickel

Also on the LME, aluminum gained 1.2 percent to $2,551 a ton, after touching $2,570, the highest since Sept. 22, 2008. Nickel gained 2.4 percent to $27,995 a ton. Earlier, the price reached $28,120, the highest since May 8, 2008.

Industrial-metals demand has been gaining since the second half of 2009, with aluminum consumption rising by 20 percent and copper 10 percent, boosted by stockpiling, Bhar of Credit Agricole said. Restocking in the U.S., the second-biggest consumer, may support demand this year, he said.

Tin rose for the ninth straight session, extending a rally to a record $30,400 a ton. Zinc and lead also climbed in London.

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