July 21, 2009 / 10:58 AM / 11 years ago

METALS-Copper hits 9-month high, sentiment stronger

 * LME copper up at nine-month peak; dollar in focus
 * Two players hold more than 80 pct of LME copper stocks
(Updates prices)
 By Nick Trevethan and Rebekah Curtis
 LONDON, July 21 (Reuters) - Copper rose more than 2 percent
to a nine-month high on Tuesday, as economic sentiment improved
and analysts said the metal looked strong fundamentally.
 Copper for three-month delivery on the London Metal Exchange
MCU3 closed at $5,400 a tonne versus a close of $5,345 on
Monday. The metal used in power and construction hit a session
high of $5,469, its highest since mid-October.
 "Copper has been one of the better-placed metals because
it's a uniquely versatile metal used in a whole variety of
products," said Calyon metals analyst Robin Bhar. "Therefore
it's able to weather the downturn."
 "Supply/demand is balanced. That is making copper stand out
alone in being fundamentally much stronger than other metals."
 Hefty Chinese buying has helped spur copper 74 percent
higher so far this year. It has been unexpectedly resilient in
recent weeks, defying analysts' predictions that a traditional
summer lull and fading Chinese demand would hit prices.
 Copper's current strength is largely fuelled by investors'
concerns about market tightness in the wake of Chinese demand
depleting stocks and a falling dollar, which makes commodities
priced in the currency cheaper to holders of other currencies.
 Investors will eye Chinese final commodity trade numbers,
due on Wednesday. [ID:nLL354298]
 "This is a summer of content. Markets are taking heart from
the dollar story, and we are also seeing that in gold," said
Nick Moore, analyst at RBS. "Although we have seen the
preliminary (Chinese) trade numbers, the final data will remind
the market just how huge China's imports have been," he added.
 Traders voiced worries about dominant positions. According
to latest LME data one entity holds 30-40 percent of available
copper warrants and another holds 50-80 percent. Between them
they could well hold the whole 266,425-tonne stockpile. <LME/WC>
 "They are exerting a tight hold on the warrants which
underline the LME stocks," Bhar said. "This is creating
tightness but it is difficult to know if this is genuine market
tightness or engineered tightness known as a squeeze."
 Cash copper prices MCU0 flipped back into a discount, or
contango, to the benchmark three-month price on Monday, having
spent most of last week at a premium. On Tuesday the spread
MCU0-3 was $11 contango.
 Copper gave up some ground after a testimony from U.S.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke provoked the dollar to
pare losses.
 Bernanke said the U.S. economic outlook appeared to be
improving and the U.S. central bank was carefully reviewing ways
to withdraw its massive monetary policy stimulus when conditions
permitted. [ID:nWEQ001226]
 Aluminium MAL3 closed at $1,715 a tonne from $1,710 after
a 7-month high of $1,754. Stocks of the metal used in transport
and packaging jumped 35,000 tonnes to a record high near 4.6
million tonnes, about six weeks worth of global consumption. 
 Lead MPB3 was at $1,689 a tonne from $1,704 and zinc
MZN3 traded at $1,652/1,655 from $1,667 a tonne. It earlier
hit a 1-month high of $1,679.75.
 "The long term outlook for zinc is positive," Standard Bank
said in a note. "With profit taking now apparently at an end,
and with new long positions being built elsewhere, zinc may now
... stand to benefit."
 Tin MSN3 was at $13,975/14,000 from $14,000 and hit a
day's high of $14,150, its highest since July 8. The
backwardation on tin climbed to about $225, compared to a
contango of $40 in mid-June, as analysts cited apparent
tightness in the market. A dominant position holds 30-40 percent
of available tin warrants.
 Nickel MNI3 was at $15,975 from $16,225.
 Metal Prices at 1643 GMT
 Metal            Last      Change  Pct Move   End 2008   Ytd Pct
 COMEX Cu       244.60       -1.40     -0.57     139.50     75.34
 LME Alum      1715.00        7.00     +0.41    1535.00     11.73
 LME Cu        5380.00       70.00     +1.32    3060.00     75.82
 LME Lead      1675.00       55.00     +3.40     999.00     67.67
 LME Nickel   15830.00     -395.00     -2.43   11700.00     35.30
 LME Tin      13850.00     -150.00     -1.07   10700.00     29.44
 LME Zinc      1647.00      -20.00     -1.20    1208.00     36.34
 SHFE Alu     13835.00     -110.00     -0.79   11540.00     19.89
 SHFE Cu*     43020.00     -490.00     -1.13   23840.00     80.45
 SHFE Zin     13715.00     -165.00     -1.19   10120.00     35.52
** 1st contract month for COMEX copper
* 3rd contract month for SHFE AL, CU and ZN
SHFE ZN began trading on 26/3/07
 (Additional reporting by Michael Taylor; editing by Keiron
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