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China demand hopes drive copper to two-month peak

Copper prices rose to their highest in nearly two months on Monday, buoyed by growing hopes of fresh stimulus and demand in China, a softer dollar and protests at a mine in Panama.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was up 0.9% at $8,344 a metric ton in official rings, having earlier touched $8,355 for its highest since Sept. 29.

Hopes for stronger copper consumption were raised by a pledge from China’s central bank to ensure financing support for the property sector, a major consumer of industrial metals.

“There’s a fair amount of stimulus in the pipeline and we are in a seasonally strong period,” said Dan Smith, head of research at Amalgamated Metal Trading.

“For me, copper demand looks strong in China, primarily in the green sectors. We know utilisation rates at wire rod plants picked up into mid-November.”

Sliding stocks of copper in warehouses monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange CU-STX-SGH suggest healthy China demand, traders said. At 31,026 metric tons, they have dropped 90% since February.

The Yangshan copper premium SMM-CUYP-CN climbed to $100 a ton last week and has more than tripled since the start of August, suggesting a need for China to import copper.

Supply concerns come from reduced ore processing owing to protests at First Quantum Minerals’ FM.TO Cobre Panama mine, which accounts for 1% of global copper output, traders said.

A weaker U.S. currency, meanwhile, makes dollar-priced metals cheaper for holders of other currencies.

Elsewhere, lead CMPB3 hit its highest since Jan. 9 at $2,308.50 a ton as funds and traders raised bets on higher prices of the battery material as the market moves into a seasonally strong consumption period.

Stocks of lead in LME-registered warehouses are up, but cancelled warrants – metal earmarked for delivery – have jumped recently to 44% of the total at 135,925 tons, suggesting that 59,400 tons are due to leave the LME system.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Pratima Desai, Editing by David Goodman)

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