Dec 23, 2011 NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Copper futures rose for a fourth consecutive day Friday, ending at a two-week high as a reading on the long-struggling U.S. housing sector raised hopes that strength in the world's top economy would support demand for the metal in the year ahead.
The most-actively traded contract, for March delivery, rose 5.4 cents, or 1.6%, to settle at $3.4695 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest settlement price since Dec. 9.
Comex copper floor trading settled an hour earlier than normal Friday ahead of the Christmas holiday weekend, and trading will be closed Monday. The London Metal Exchange will be closed Monday and Tuesday.
Futures gained 4.4% this week, as a raft of upbeat U.S. economic data helped blunt lingering worries that Europe may be sliding toward a credit crunch. European credit markets were also calmer after the European Central Bank launched an emergency loan program.
U.S. new-home sales rose in November for a third straight month, the Commerce Department said Friday, a sign that the battered sector may be recovering, a potential boost to copper demand.
The number of new homes for sale at the end of the month fell to a record low, said Ellen Zentner, an analyst with Nomura Global Economics, in a note, indicating that "any pickup in new home sales has to be met with an immediate ramping up of building activity. This supports one of the themes for the U.S. economy in 2012 and that is that residential investment will not be a drag on growth."
Copper is particularly sensitive to the outlook for the sector, as new-home construction tends to increase demand for copper in electrical wiring, plumbing and appliances.
Separate reports Friday showed U.S. spending ticked higher in November, and orders for long-lasting goods climbed by more than expected. Gains in global equities markets also lent some support to copper prices, analysts said.
Prices for the industrial metal crumbled through much of November, and again in mid-December, as investors worried that Europe's debt crisis could take a toll on global growth.
Those worries continue to cap gains in the copper market, traders with RBC Capital Markets said in a note. "We continue to see selling interest on rallies," despite the market's recent upward momentum, the RBC traders said.
Copper settlements (ranges include electronic and pit trading):
Dec $3.4635; up 5.45 cents; Range $3.4250-$3.4645
Mar $3.4695; up 5.40 cents; Range $3.4135-$3.4790