Feb 28, 2012 NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Copper futures settled higher Tuesday, locking their third consecutive day of gains, as traders focused on data showing stronger consumer confidence in the U.S. and Europe.
Copper for May delivery, the most actively traded contract, settled 3.25 cents, or 0.8%, higher at $3.9215 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
U.S. consumer confidence jumped in February to its highest level in a year. Private research group the Conference Board said its index of consumer confidence rose to 70.8 this month from a revised 61.5 in January.
The "solid" confidence number helped buoy copper prices, said traders at RBC Capital Markets.
Copper futures have steadily marched higher over the past three trading sessions, locking in a 2.8% gain since last Thursday.
Copper is widely used in consumer products like cellphones, air conditioners and automobiles, and demand for these products tends rise when consumers have a brighter outlook on the economy.
Copper prices also caught a boost from data showing that businesses and consumers in the euro zone are feeling more upbeat about their prospects in February. The European Commission said its economic-sentiment indicator for the 17-country currency bloc rose to 94.4 from 93.4 in January, the second consecutive monthly increase. The improvement suggests the region's economy may soon start to recover from a contraction in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Copper futures are sensitive to shifts in economic outlook because demand for the metal is largely driven by the manufacturing and construction sectors.
However, a disappointing surprise in U.S. durable goods orders for January tempered copper's gains. Manufacturers' orders for goods designed to last at least three years fell by 4.0% to a seasonally adjusted $206.09 billion in January, the commerce department said Tuesday. The drop was much larger than the 1.1% decline economists had predicted.
Copper futures have climbed as high as $3.9485 ahead of the data, but pared earlier gains after the report was released as the metal is widely used in electrical and manufacturing equipment.
Copper settlements (ranges include electronic and pit trading):
Mar $3.9120; up 3.15 cents; Range $3.8590-$3.9485
May $3.9215; up 3.25 cents; Range $3.8670-$3.9575