Mysterious Copper Trades Send Metal to Longest Rally in a Year

Updated on
  • More than 22,000 contracts traded in Shanghai in 15 minutes
  • Copper prices rise in New York, erasing earlier losses

Copper Hits Three-Year High as China Cuts Back

Just when you thought things are beginning to quiet down in the metals market on the last trading day before Christmas, mysterious copper trades emerged in Shanghai, sending ripples through London and New York.

In the 15 minutes ended 9:15 p.m. in Shanghai, 22,426 copper contracts were traded, triggering spikes in volume that helped reverse the red metal’s losses on the London Metal Exchange and Comex in New York. That sent prices on Comex up for a 13th straight session, extending the longest rally in more than a year.

Copper futures for March delivery rose 0.6 percent to settle at $3.2385 a pound at 12:13 p.m. on the Comex, after touching $3.243, the highest since Oct. 17. Volume was just 15 percent below the 100-day average for this time of day, compared with 40 percent for gold, 51 percent for crude oil and 59 percent for corn.

“Strong buying in Shanghai on the night session drove copper,” Tai Wong, the New York-based head of base and precious metals trading at BMO Capital Markets, said in an email. Traders are reluctant to sell ahead of the Christmas holiday “especially since the market isn’t really sure why it rallied,” he said.

Copper, often seen as a barometer of the global economy, has risen 29 percent in 2017, heading for its biggest annual gain since 2010 and among the best-performing commodities. The metal got an additional boost last week from central banks, as the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank increased their forecasts for growth in their economies next year.

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