LONDON: Copper rose in thin trade on Friday as an optimistic outlook for growth in the United States and demand for metals gathered pace following encouraging data from the world’s largest economy that pointed to signs of an economic pickup.
Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was at $7,620 a ton by 1009 GMT, up from Thursday’s close of $7,540.
The metal used in power and construction earlier hit its highest level in more than a week, although light volume on the last trading day before Christmas exaggerated moves.
Following upbeat data on the labor market and encouraging consumer sentiment numbers in the previous session, investors focus will now turn more US data due later in the session including November’s durable goods orders and new home sales figures.
"US data has been quite impressive recently, but I don’t expect to see a sustained rally just before year-end because there is still uncertainty out there," said Andrey Kryuchenkov, analyst at VTB Capital.
"The key point is that trading is very thin so we could still push to $7,800 a ton for copper on these low volumes."
Helping cement gains was a stronger euro against the dollar. A weak dollar makes commodities priced in the US unit cheaper for holders of other currencies.
"Our short term view is that the metals may well get some further lift as short-covering takes place ahead of the Christmas break and the firmer equities and a slightly weaker dollar should help facilitate that," FastMarkets analysts said in a note.
Copper prices have risen around 3 percent so far this week, snapping two weeks of falls, but is on track fall by more than 20 percent this year in its first annual drop since 2008.
With caution about the euro zone debt crisis likely to persist into the new year, analysts reckon early 2012 could bring renewed pressure for the base metals complex.
Workers to return
Gains in copper were limited by easing supply disruption fears as thousands of striking workers at Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc’s mine in Indonesia will start returning to work on Saturday to end three months of industrial action.
The mining company had faced strikes and blockades in Indonesia and also its Cerro Verde plant in Peru this year as workers demanded pay increases.
In other metals, aluminum climbed $2,021.50 from Thursday’s close of $2,018 a ton, while zinc, used in galvanizing, rose to $1,870.75 from $1,850 a ton.
Battery material lead rose to $2,022 from $2,000 and stainless steel ingredient nickel climbed to $18,733 from $18,695.
Tin rose to $19,397 a ton, from a last bid of $19,200 on Thursday.