Copper rebounds on tight supplies, dollar, oil

LONDON - Copper edged higher on Monday, rebounding from last week's heavy losses as tight supplies and production losses aided the market while dollar weakness and rising oil prices helped support the whole metals complex.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Mon 18 Aug 2008, 7:05 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:54 AM

Metal prices fell to multi-month lows last week, as worries about global growth and a strong dollar triggered a broad commodity sell-off.

An easing dollar against the euro and oil rising above $114 a barrel on Monday underpinned metal prices, but analysts said still the complex was vulnerable to worries about demand.

Copper for three-months delivery on the London Metal Exchange traded at $7,435 per tonne in open outcry, versus a last quote of $7,360/7,365 per tonne on Friday while energy-intensive aluminium lost $3 to $2,777 per tonne to after rising as high as $2,836 earlier.

"The dollar has a significant effect on these markets," analyst Dan Smith at Standard Chartered said.

"But it's important to overplay that," he said, adding that metals with tight fundamentals would benefit the most from the impact of dollar and oil.

The dollar retreated from a six-month high against the euro, making metal prices cheaper for local currency holders.

"The dollar has a significant impact on these markets. But today we're moving with fundamentals and technicals...These markets were a bit oversold last week," an LME trader said.

Oil's climb above $114 a barrel also underpinned metal prices, several traders said.

"Oil's rally helped copper and aluminium. Some people rushed to cover their short positions," a trader on the floor of the LME said, referring to investors, who bet on lower prices previously, buying back their positions.

A tax announcement from China on unwrought aluminium has supported prices earlier. Beijing would impose a 15 percent tax on exports of unwrought aluminium alloy from Aug. 20, the Ministry of Finance said late Friday.

Supply suffering

Smith at Standard Chartered said demand worries for metals remained, but supply problems in some metals, particularly copper, are likely to underpin prices.

"Copper remains as a reasonable tight market. Even though demand is soft, supply side is suffering quite badly," he said. "Output at Escondida is down around 4 percent. Given that's the world's largest copper mine, it is helping to offset any problems on the demand side."

First-half copper output at Chile's Escondida, majority-owned by global diversified miner BHP Billiton, fell 4.42 percent due to lower ore grade and less mineral available for its oxide plant.

Demand from China, the world's top consumer of copper, has been weaker than expected so far this year. Coupled with sluggish growth in the United States and Europe total copper demand has been subdued.

However, mining giant BHP Billiton was confident of metals demand going forward, thanks to the robust demand outlook from emerging markets.

"The effects of current weaknesses in the developed economies on demand for our commodities should be minimal, driven by ongoing strong demand from the emerging economies," BHP said in a statement.

The company, bidding around $127 billion for rival Rio Tinto in what would be the world's second-biggest takeover, posted a 30 percent rise in half-year profit and boosted its dividend.

Zinc lost $15.5 to $1,644.4/1,645 a tonne while lead rose by $30 to $1,700 and nickel was at $18,200 versus Friday's last quote of $18,690/18,700. Tin was at $19,125/19,150 compared to $18,700/18,800.

Tin's backwardation or premium for cash material over the three-month contract rose to $110 per tonne from Friday's $70 per tonne as the market noted the jump in cancelled warrants -- material already reserved.

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