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Copper Rises on China Car Sales, U.S. Job-Growth Outlook

March 12 (Bloomberg) -- Copper rose to the highest price in more than a week, leading a rally in base metals, as signs of strength in Chinese auto sales and progress in the U.S. labor market brightened the outlook for demand.

Wholesale deliveries of cars, multipurpose and sport-utility vehicles rose 20 percent to 2.84 million units in January and February in the strongest start since 2010, according to a China industry group. In the U.S., job openings climbed in January and confidence among small businesses rose in February for a third month, separate reports showed. The two countries are the world’s largest copper users. Prices are up 2.4 percent from a three-month low on March 1.

“As the economy gets stronger, you’d expect to see stronger raw-materials demand,” John Petrie, a senior market strategist at Zaner Group in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “Copper may have gotten undervalued.”

Copper futures for delivery in May advanced 1.1 percent to settle at $3.5545 a pound at 1:09 p.m. on the Comex in New York, after touching $3.576, the highest since Feb. 28.

On the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months gained 0.9 percent to $7,830 a metric ton ($3.55 a pound).

Zinc for delivery in three months on the LME gained 1.3 percent to $1,986 a ton, after yesterday reaching the lowest closing price since November. The 14-day relative strength index, a gauge of whether a commodity is overbought or oversold, yesterday neared 26, below the level of 30 that indicates a potential rebound to some analysts who study technical charts.

Nickel, tin, aluminum and lead also rose in London.

To contact the reporters on this story: Joe Richter in New York at jrichter1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net

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