NEW YORK/LONDON, March 3 (Reuters) - Copper ended up after hitting its highest level in two weeks on Thursday, supported by better-than-expected labor market data in the United States and a retreat in the price of oil.
Data showing new U.S. claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to their lowest level in more than 2-1/2 years helped restore some confidence back into the broader markets, recently under pressure form the turmoil in Libya and rising crude oil.
Oil prices declined after Venezuela President Hugo Chavez made a proposal to try to broker a peace deal in Libya. [O/R]
"There's some feeling that, with this talk about mediation potentially in Libya, things might settle down a bit," said Daniel Smith, an analyst at
With that, copper prices were able to move higher.
London Metal Exchange (LME) three-month copper CMCU3 peaked at $9,979 per tonne, its highest since mid-February, before ending at a last bid at $9,910, up $21 from Wednesday.
COMEX copper for May delivery HGK1 failed to hold on to its own two-week high at $4.5485 per lb, ending 0.80 cent lower at $4.49.
Tensions have run high in broader markets since a wave of unrest has spread across the Middle East and North Africa this year, pushing oil prices higher threatening the global recovery.
As a result, copper prices have fallen as much as 9 percent from their mid-February records at $10,190 per tonne in London and $4.6575 per lb in New York.
Copper has since recovered and been inching closer and closer back toward those historic levels in the last week.
A falling dollar against the euro and a steady stream of positive U.S. data have helped.
"The base metals have come off in the last couple of days even though the euro has been higher," noticed Justin Lennon, analyst with Mitsui Bussan Commodities (U.S.A.) Inc.
"Now that we have some real proof of improving employment conditions in developed markets, that is allowing base metals to better reflect the dollar weakness."
The euro EUR= jumped against the dollar after European Central BankPresident Jean-Claude Trichet said inflationary risks are to the upside and "strong vigilance" is required. [ID:nN03264788] [ID:nLOOKCBANK] [USD/]
The comments wee seen raising the prospects of higher interest rates, thereby boosting the euro at the expense of the dollar. The ECB held interest rates unchanged at the record-low 1.0 percent they have been at since May
Stocks of copper in LME warehouses rose 500 tonnes to 424,050 tonnes, their highest level since July last year. The trend, which began in the beginning of December, has provided evidence of diminishing demand.
The inventory builds have moved the copper curve into a $12.50 contango -- a discount for cash over three-month material MCU0-3 -- from a $70 backwardation, or the premium for cash over three-month material, in mid-December.
Aluminium CMAL3 stocks fell 5,475 tonnes to 4,598,950 tonnes, but remained within reach of a record high 4,640,750 tonnes hit in January 2010.
Aluminium CMAL3, untraded in rings, was last bid at $2,611 a tonne, up $8 from Wednesday's close.
Zinc CMZN3 closed up $32 at $2,512 a tonne and lead CMPB3 climbed $55 to $2,619 a tonne.
Tin CMSN3 firmed $50 to end at $31,650 a tonne and nickel CMNI3 closed up $260 at $28,860.
Metal Prices at 1936 GMT
COMEX copper in cents/lb, LME prices in $/T and SHFE prices in yuan/T
Metal Last Change Pct Move End 2010 Ytd Pct
COMEX Cu 449.90 0.10 +0.02 444.70 1.17
LME Alum 2611.00 8.00 +0.31 2470.00 5.71
LME Cu 9910.00 50.00 +0.51 9600.00 3.23
LME Lead 2617.00 53.00 +2.07 2550.00 2.63
LME Nickel 28860.00 260.00 +0.91 24750.00 16.61
LME Tin 31650.00 50.00 +0.16 26900.00 17.66
LME Zinc 2510.00 30.00 +1.21 2454.00 2.28
SHFE Alu 16945.00 -45.00 -0.26 16840.00 0.62
SHFE Cu* 74140.00 -560.00 -0.75 71850.00 3.19
SHFE Zin 19120.00 -115.00 -0.60 19475.00 -1.82