Metals: Copper Price Rises Over Supply Concerns

By David HodariFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

The price of copper rebounded Thursday, heading back toward the four-year high it hit at the end of 2017 amid fears about curbs in supply.

The base metal was last up 1.1% at $7,254.50 a metric ton in late morning trade in London.

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Gold was down by 0.31% at $1,314.30 a troy ounce despite continued weakness in the U.S. dollar. A weaker greenback tends to mean less expensive dollar-denominated commodities for holders of other currencies.

Base metals were broadly higher on Thursday.

Investors are now "believing that those commodities will fare well in 2018 because of supply constraints," said Robin Bhar, head of metals research at Societe Generale.

Zinc was up 0.84% at $3,358 a metric ton, aluminum rose 0.99% to $2,251 a metric ton, tin rose 0.08% to $19,950 a metric ton, nickel was up 1.93% to $12,690 a metric ton and lead rose 0.43% to $2,558 a metric ton.

For copper, prices are rising due to growing fears about its supply--particularly in South America.

"There's a huge number of supply contracts up for review this year--approximately four or five million tons worth in a market of 20 million tons. That leaves significant scope for disrupted supply," Mr. Bhar said.

Similar issues pushed copper prices higher in the first half of last year, with labor disputes at BHP Billiton's operation at Chilean Escondida and Freeport-McMoRan's mine at Grasberg in Indonesia among the most significant supply disruptions.

Worker contracts at Escondida are up for review again in June. Other private mine owners in Chile, as well as state owned giant Codelco, are also due to renegotiate contracts with their workers in the first months of 2018.

"Copper prices could move even higher and workers are going to want a generous deal," Mr. Bhar said.

Also supporting copper prices were reports that China has reduced the 2018 import quotas for copper scrap for environmental reasons, Commerzbank analysts said in a note.

Looking ahead, commodities investors were focusing on U.S. jobs data and speeches from Federal Open Market Committee members.

Among precious metals, silver was up 0.06% at $17.14 a troy ounce, palladium rose 1.01% to $1,098.15 a troy ounce and platinum fell 0.52% to $953.05 a troy ounce.

Write to David Hodari at David.Hodari@wsj.com @wsj.com>

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 04, 2018 06:44 ET (11:44 GMT)