Dec 22, 2011 NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Copper futures settled higher Thursday, supported by upbeat economic data from the U.S., though trading volumes continued to decline ahead of the winter holidays.
The most actively traded contract, for March delivery, settled 2.10 cents, or 0.6%, higher at $3.4155 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The index of leading economic indicators advanced 0.5% in November, after rising 0.9% in October, the Conference Board said Thursday. The increase suggests more momentum is building in the U.S. economy.
Meanwhile, U.S. jobless claims fell by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 364,000, the lowest level since April 2008.
The data "helped provide support on a day marked by lower volumes," traders at RBC Capital Markets said in a note to clients.
However, the upbeat mood was chilled by data showing the U.S. economy grew at a slower pace than previously thought during the third quarter. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of all the goods and services produced in an economy, grew at an inflation adjusted annual rate of 1.8% in the July to September period, down from a previous reading of 2.0%.
Copper, which is needed to make everything from cell phones and laptops to household plumbing, is sensitive to shifts in economic growth as they indicate changes in demand for the metal.
However, trading volumes in Comex copper futures are continuing to decline as market participants prepare for the upcoming holidays. Comex floor trading will close early Friday and will be closed Monday in observance of Christmas.
"We do not expect much to happen for the balance of the week in most markets, as participants thin out and refrain from taking major positions ahead of the year- and quarter-end," said Edward Meir, metals analyst with INTL FCStone, said in a note to clients.
Elsewhere, Barclays Capital is set to reshuffle its base metals trading team following a series of significant financial losses made by the desk this year, people familiar with the situation told Dow Jones Newswires Thursday.
The company has been unraveling a number of its long-term copper positions at a significant loss, as a turn in the markets over the past year made the trades unprofitable, people familiar with the situation said.
Barclays declined to comment.
Copper settlements (ranges include electronic and pit trading):
Dec $3.4090; up 2.00 cents; Range $3.3760-$3.4190
Mar $3.4155; up 2.10 cents; Range $3.3600-$3.4300