Copper Rises After Upbeat Chinese Economic Data

Beckett Bronze produces cast bronze precision-machined parts and continuous cast bars. Castings are manufactured at the East 20th Street plant. The West 23rd Street plant produces finished machined parts and has about 75 machine tools including CNC lathes.

Copper prices climbed Wednesday, advancing back toward a multiyear high hit in mid-September after data showed China’s economic recovery is gathering momentum.

Most actively traded copper futures for December delivery added 1.4% to $3.0325 a pound, moving back toward a recent peak of $3.116 hit on Sept. 18.

The industrial metal has risen about 8% for the year and recovered roughly 40% in the past six months following an early-year selloff. Prices tumbled after the Chinese economy shut early during the coronavirus crisis but have benefited with economic activity in the world’s biggest commodity consumer rising lately.

China accounts for roughly half of global copper demand, making its manufacturing sector a primary driver of prices. Copper is a key component of everything from electric vehicles to smartphones.

Figures Wednesday showed China’s official manufacturing purchasing managers index rose more than expected in September, the latest data point indicating an upbeat recovery in China after new coronavirus cases in the country generally stopped rising. A separate private gauge of manufacturing activity also pointed to a healthy rebound driven in part by government stimulus.

The steady pace of economic growth in China during its rebound contrasts with the slowdown some analysts expect to hit the U.S. and Europe, which are grappling with recent rises in coronavirus cases.

Copper’s close ties to China and manufacturing have helped the industrial metal outpace other commodities such as oil that have been hit harder by the pandemic and are more closely linked to global travel.

A Citigroup tool that tracks end uses of copper in China throughout various sectors like appliance makers is also showing robust demand, with the three-month average of the tracker now at its highest level since early in 2017. That highlights “China’s ‘V’ shaped recovery,” Citi analysts said in a note.

Traders will be monitoring economic activity in China during a coming eight-day holiday that begins Thursday. But some analysts also caution that prices for industrial metals could become more volatile because a key source of liquidity will be absent during the coming stretch. Overnight trading during Asian trading hours often sets the tone for the following day’s activity in London and New York.

Elsewhere in commodities Wednesday, U.S. crude-oil futures added 2.4% to $40.22 a barrel after government data showed crude inventories fell unexpectedly last week. Still, oil prices have stalled around $40 lately, pausing a summer rebound with fuel demand in the U.S. stagnating and analysts questioning when global travel patterns will normalize.

Write to Amrith Ramkumar at

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Appeared in the October 1, 2020, print edition as ‘Copper Prices Advance on Chinese Data.’

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