May 17, 2012 NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Copper futures eked out a gain Thursday, the first in five sessions, as relative calm in currency markets spurred some traders to close out bets on lower prices.
The most actively traded copper contract, for July delivery, rose 0.1 cent to $3.479 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Copper had settled lower for four consecutive sessions as investors dumped the growth-sensitive metal on the chance that Greece's political deadlock and the strain in Europe's financial sector could slam the industrial economy. Copper is sensitive to the economic outlook because of its widespread uses across industries, and the euro-zone members together are the second largest consumer of the metal behind China.
The dollar has surged this month as investors sought a safe place to park cash during Europe's apparently worsening debt crisis. That's dragged on dollar-denominated commodities, including copper, by making the futures appear more expensive for buyers using other currencies.
The currency was initially higher again Thursday, with the ICE US Dollar Index touching a four-month high, before giving up the day's gains and spurring some gains in the copper market.
Greece is heading for another election next month, putting the country's international bailout in jeopardy and adding pressure to Europe's fragile government debt markets.
Spain's latest bond auction, held Thursday, saw the country's borrowing costs rise. Moody's Investors Service reportedly told several Spanish banks that it will lower their credit ratings.
A Spanish daily newspaper said clients of troubled Spanish lender Bankia withdrew more than EUR1 billion in deposits after the bank was bailed out by the government.
Bankia shares slumped by 14% Thursday.
Copper settlements (ranges include electronic and pit trading):
May $3.4795; down 0.55 cent; Range $3.4655-$3.5165
July $3.4790; up 0.10 cent; Range $3.4530-$3.5215