December 23, 2011 / 10:43 AM / 8 years ago

METALS-Copper up in thin trade on US growth hopes

* Thin volumes seen exaggerating moves
    * Copper heads for first annual loss in two years
    * Freeport's Indonesia workers to return to work

    By Harpreet Bhal	
    LONDON, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Copper rose in thin trade on Friday after a
recent run of encouraging data from the United States provided an optimistic
outlook for growth and for metals demand in the world's largest economy.	
    Limiting gains, however, were ongoing concerns about Europe's debt crisis,
and copper was still on course for its first annual loss in two years.	
    Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) ended at $7,650
a tonne, up from Thursday's close of $7,540. The metal used in power and
construction earlier hit its highest level in more than a week, although light
volumes on the last trading day before Christmas exaggerated moves.	
    Boosting copper was U.S. data showing that new orders for manufactured goods
soared in November, while new home sales hit a seven-month high. The data
followed upbeat numbers Thursday on jobless claims and consumer confidence.
    "The numbers out of the U.S. build a case that the economy is recovering.
(Also) there is speculation the Federal Reserve might keep rates close to zero
until 2014, and there's the new soft rhetoric from the European Central Bank,"
said Danske Bank analyst Arne Lohmann Rasmussen.	
    "We are recommending our clients buy at these levels," he added.	
    Boosting confidence, an ECB executive board member, Lorenzo Bini Smaghi,
said earlier the central bank should launch a U.S.-style asset purchase
programme if economic conditions change, opening the door to a possible policy
shift at the bank to combat deflation. 	
    "Our short-term view is that metals may well get some further lift as
short-covering takes place ahead of the Christmas break," helped by firmer
equities, FastMarkets analysts said in a note.	
    Copper prices have risen around 4 percent so far this week, snapping two
weeks of falls, but are on track to fall by more than 20 percent this year, with
caution about the euro zone debt crisis likely to persist into the new year.	
    On the downside for copper was news of easing supply disruptions.  Striking
workers at Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc's mine in Indonesia will start
returning to work on Saturday to end three months of industrial
    The mining company had faced strikes and blockades in Indonesia and
at its Cerro Verde plant in Peru this year as workers demanded pay increases. 	
    In other metals, aluminium ended at $2,016 a tonne from Thursday's
close of $2,018, while zinc, used in galvanising, closed at $1,855 from
$1,850 a tonne. 	
    Battery material lead ended at $2,020 from $2,000 and stainless
steel ingredient nickel closed at $18,505 from $18,695.	
    Tin was last bid at $19,295, from a last bid of $19,200 on Thursday.	
 Metal Prices at 1709 GMT
  Metal            Last      Change  Pct Move   End 2009   Ytd Pct
  LME Alum      2016.00       -2.00     -0.10    2230.00     -9.60
  LME Cu        7640.00      100.00     +1.33    7375.00      3.59
  LME Lead      2019.00       19.00     +0.95    2432.00    -16.98
  LME Nickel   18505.00     -190.00     -1.02   18525.00     -0.11
  LME Tin      19295.00       95.00     +0.49   16950.00     13.83
  LME Zinc      1855.00        5.00     +0.27    2560.00    -27.54
  SHFE Alu     15910.00      120.00     +0.76   17160.00     -7.28
  SHFE Cu*     55850.00      980.00     +1.79   59900.00     -6.76
  SHFE Zin     15000.00      135.00     +0.91   21195.00    -29.23
 ** 1st contract month for COMEX copper
 * 3rd contract month for SHFE AL, CU and ZN
 SHFE ZN began trading on 26/3/07
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