Copper and Zinc Storyline Takes Twist on Signs of China Strength

  • Traders bullish on copper as China data signal better demand
  • 2016’s top performer zinc posts second straight weekly decline

Copper is at last getting a moment in the sun. Prices posted the biggest weekly gain in two months as the metal that’s lagged behind its peers this year gets a boost from signs that demand may strengthen in China, the biggest consumer.

Copper analysts and traders remain bullish on the near-term outlook for prices after a slew of Chinese data fueled speculation demand will improve, according to a Bloomberg survey. Figures this week showed new credit surpassed estimates after readings for factory output, investment and retail sales also exceeded expectations. Last week, Bank of China International said the time is coming to bet on gains for copper while shorting zinc.

“We always have to never forget what Chinese demand can do to any commodity, and copper is one of those markets where we see a lot of Chinese influence,” Frank Cholly, a senior market strategist at RJO Futures in Chicago, said in a telephone interview.

The metal for delivery in three months rose 0.1 percent to $4,788 a metric ton ($2.17 a pound) at 5:51 p.m. on the London Metal Exchange, leaving the weekly gain at 3.3 percent, the biggest increase since mid-July. By contrast, zinc -- the top metals performer of 2016 -- posted its first back-to-back weekly drop since January.

Copper has advanced just 1.8 percent in 2016, the least among the six main base metals, amid speculation that growth in supply is topping demand to spur a surplus.

Anglo American Plc is resuming operations at its Los Bronces copper mine in central Chile after reaching a wage agreement to end a week-long strike. In the next nine months, Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, is scheduled to negotiate new contracts with about 5,200 workers.

Zinc has rallied 38 percent this year amid forecasts for a worldwide deficit following mine depletions, and after some producers including Glencore Plc cut supply. The price -- which rose to $2,372 a ton earlier this month, the highest since May 2015 -- slid 0.7 percent to $2,215 a ton on Friday.

  • Copper stockpiles tracked by the LME fell for a fourth day, the longest declining streak since June 22.
  • Prices of aluminum, nickel and tin advanced in London, while lead declined.
  • In New York, copper futures for December delivery rose less than 0.1 percent to settle at $2.16 a pound on the Comex.
  • Financial markets in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Malaysia are shut for holidays on Friday.
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