Copper close at record on supply fears
By Carole Vaporean
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Copper futures surged to record levels on Friday, shooting above $2.00 a lb for the first time ever as tight supplies and inflation worries spurred heavy purchases by funds, traders said.
Supply concerns intensified a day after Chile, the world's leading copper producer, lowered its 2005 and 2006 production forecasts and raised forecasts for prices.
Chile's announcement came with global copper inventories already near historic lows. The market had brushed aside news earlier in the week that more supply would hit the market.
"Today wasn't that shocking. I thought Wednesday was shocking when the news was Asarco (settled a miners' strike) and the China State Reserve was going to be delivering metal, and copper didn't really sell off," said one New York dealer.
"Then people realized that most of that news really was not that bearish. Asarco was producing already, so it's just some incremental tonnage. And with State Reserve, it's a sign of how bullish things really are," he added.
Benchmark December copper at the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange shot to a new contract high at $1.9060 a lb, settling close by at $1.9055, up 3.40 cents.
Spot November jumped to $2.0010 a lb., the first time ever for a COMEX contract, and ended up 3.40 at $1.9990.
Brokers said some switching business, out of December and into March, was still being carried out on Friday, though most of the attention was trained on tight supply issues.
March copper also set a contract high at $1.8480 a lb, and finished 3.85 cents higher at $1.8460 a lb.
COMEX estimated final copper volume at a heavy 29,000 lots, after a hefty round of buying on Thursday at 27,945 lots.
Bankrupt U.S. copper miner Asarco said on Wednesday it planned to boost copper production to take advantage of record metals prices after striking a tentative deal with workers to end a four-month strike at its Arizona mines.
China's State Reserves Bureau said this week it would auction up to 20,000 tons of spot copper next week and potentially sell 100,000 tons to try to suppress prices.
Many copper participants questioned the normally secretive SRB's intentions and thought the bureau was trying to quell the red metal's momentous rise by jawboning it down.
"It certainly feels like that's what they're doing," said a New York dealer, pointing out that while other regions were selling copper on the SRB's announcement on Wednesday, traders in China were buying it.
"And that made a lot of people very skeptical," he said.
One trader pointed out the SRB's move to sell copper was a sign of how bullish the metal really is.
"Demand is so strong that these guys are going to release material. And, historically speaking, most interventions fail. I think people took it with a grain of salt," he said.
Another trader noted that when a market runs contrary to the news it is often a sign of underlying strength.
Inflation fears also buoyed copper, as funds bought in a search for tangible assets like metals after news that higher energy prices helped push the U.S. September trade deficit wider to record levels.
London Metal Exchange (LME) warehouse stocks fell by 1,100 tons to 65,350 tons on Friday. COMEX inventories remained unchanged at 3,690 short tons in Thursday's daily report.
LME three-months copper set an all-time high on Friday at $4,105 a ton, soaring far above the previous record set Thursday at $4,018, as it headed into the close.
I wonder how Asarco is doing down here, about 4 or 5 years ago copper was around 62 cents per pound and asarco only ran some of its mines a couple days a week.
Damn I have about 50 pounds of scrap copper in my garage, looks like that will be ammo money
Gee, my copper shoots above 3,200 feet per second
pre 1982 and some 1982 US pennies are 95% copper, takes about 146 of them to weigh a pound. You can double your money by selling scrap pennies! home.att.net/~numericana/answer/trivia.htm#pennies