Sep 08, 2011 NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Copper futures pushed to slight gains Thursday, supported by the view that an expected U.S. jobs program and improved Chinese data would boost the demand outlook for the industrial metal.
Copper for December delivery, the most actively traded contract, rose 1.15 cent, or 0.3%, to settle at $4.1435 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
President Barack Obama was scheduled to outline a plan to boost employment and lift the sagging U.S. economy Thursday, with reports suggesting a plan that may amount to more than $300 billion in stimulus.
Copper is sensitive to such economic factors because of its widespread uses in construction and manufacturing. Recent signs of a slowdown in the global economy, and in manufacturing in particular, have held the attention of the copper market, as traders place bets based largely on outside markets rather than the copper supply and demand picture.
Obama is set to address Congress at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Copper pared its gains in post-settlement trading after comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. The central bank chief largely reiterated comments made last month, and didn't offer any clear new insight into the likely outcome of the meeting of the bank's policy-setting committee later this month.
Copper traders Thursday were also betting on copper's rise on the view that a slate of Chinese economic data set for release Friday may show that the economy of the world's largest copper consumer is holding up well.
"There's an element of looking forward to the Chinese data," said Bart Melek, head commodity strategist with TD Securities. The copper market has a supply and demand picture that points to higher prices "provided we don't get a U.S. recession and provided China will continue to do what it is doing."
Chinese demand was a driver behind copper's rise to records this year. But Beijing, worried about inflation, has tried during the past year to cool its rapidly growing economy. Copper traders in recent months have bet that China's government will be able to tame inflation without upsetting growth and metals demand.
Reports on Chinese inflation and industrial production are due out Friday.
Copper futures had traded lower earlier Thursday, pressed by a weak reading on the U.S. labor market and downbeat comments from the European Central Bank chief.
Workers at Peruvian mining company Sociedad Minera Cerro Verde Wednesday began a two-day strike to demand higher wages. Union leaders have said that an indefinite strike is possible later this month if its demands are not met.
Cerro Verde is majority owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX).
Copper settlements (ranges include electronic and pit trading):
Sep $4.1280; up 1.25 cent; Range $4.0740-$4.1320
Dec $4.1435; up 1.15 cent; Range $4.0865-$4.1595