LONDON, Oct. 26 -- Copper rose to a 13-month high in New York and London on optimism about the outlook for prices as imports into China, the world's largest consumer, returned to growth.
China's refined copper imports climbed in September to 282,828 metric tons, the first gain in three months, the Beijing-based customs office said today. Demand from the Asian nation has helped prices to more than double this year. On a net basis, speculators and hedge funds are betting for the first time since July 2008 that New York copper futures will gain.
"Investment sentiment toward copper in particular is optimistic," Daniel Major, an analyst at RBS Global Banking & Markets, said today by phone in London. "People are positioning for higher prices for the next few years."
December-delivery copper climbed 2.25 cents, or 0.7 percent to $3.057 a pound on the New York Mercantile Exchange's Comex unit at 9:28 a.m. local time. The contract rose as high as $3.069, the highest intraday price since Sept. 25, 2008.
Copper for three-month delivery added 0.8 percent to $6,705 a ton on the London Metal Exchange. Prices will average $7,000 a ton in the second quarter of next year, according to RBS.
Stockpiles of copper tracked by the LME increased 0.5 percent to 368,850 tons. Including those monitored by the exchanges in New York and Shanghai, they totaled 518,040 tons, the highest since April 21.
Hedge-fund managers and other large speculators moved to a net long position in New York copper futures in the week ended Oct. 20 from a net short position, according to U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data. Speculative long positions, or bets prices will rise, outnumbered short positions by 1,685 contracts, the CFTC said in its Commitments of Traders report.
The LME Index of the exchange's six main industrial metals has jumped 80 percent this year, with lead posting the largest gain. The benchmark may be set to advance further, according to MacNeil Curry, a technical analyst at Barclays Capital in London.
The index ended last week above 3,000, a 50 percent rebound from the drop that started in May 2007 and ended in December of last year, Curry said by phone from London today. The so-called retracement points to a climb to 3,350 by the end of the year and possibly to 3,600 in the first quarter, he said.
Among other LME metals for three-month delivery, zinc climbed 3.4 percent to $2,348 a ton after rising as high as $2,352, the highest since May 19, 2008. Demand from steel companies improved in the third quarter compared with the first half, said Boliden AB, Europe's second-largest zinc smelter.
Production had returned to full capacity by the end of the third quarter to meet with higher demand, Boliden said. Separately, the International Lead and Zinc Study Group said the zinc market's surplus increased to 327,000 tons in this year's first eight months as usage dropped 10 percent.
Lead added 1.7 percent to $2,400 a ton. Supply of the metal exceeded demand by 57,000 tons for the eight-month period after a 29,000-ton shortfall a year earlier, the ILZSG said.
Tin gained 0.4 percent to $15,200 a ton, and aluminum increased 2.1 percent to $2,013 a ton. Nickel rose 1.1 percent to $19,209 a ton.