Aluminum climbed to the highest levels in a month on Wednesday, bolstered by buying from industrial consumers, while copper got a boost from a weaker dollar and strong Chinese imports.
Three-month aluminum on the London Metal Exchange rose 2.8 percent to $1,607 a ton in official trading, the strongest since May 6, building on a rise of 0.7 percent on Tuesday.
“There’s good consumer buying of aluminum at the dips, every time it moves lower it seems to attract good consumer buying, so that’s underpinning the market,” said Robin Bhar, head of metals research at Societe Generale in London.
Aluminum hit a nine-month peak of $1,686 in late April, but then slid nearly 10 percent by mid-May, partly due to reports that Chinese smelters were restarting and adding to a surplus of metal.
Even though inventories were plentiful, with LME stocks around 2.5 million tons, most of those were locked up in financing deals and not available to consumers, analysts said.
Copper failed to trade in official rings and was bid up 0.7 percent at $4,600 a ton after China’s copper imports jumped 19.4 percent from the same month a year ago to 430,000 tons last month.
Copper pared some of the 2.6 percent losses from the previous session, when prices plumbed their weakest in a fortnight at $4,552 and teetered near the lowest since February.
“The normal seasonal slowdown in Chinese commodity imports didn’t materialize in May, with most commodities recording strong growth,” said analyst Daniel Hynes of ANZ in Sydney.
“It’s clear that selective stimulus measures in recent months have improved domestic demand, resulting in these strong import numbers. However, if credit conditions tighten in the near term (as we suspect), commodity imports should fall slightly in the coming months.”
Overall, trade data was mixed, as China’s exports fell more than expected given stubbornly weak global demand, but imports beat forecasts, pointing to improving domestic demand and adding to hopes that the world’s second-largest economy may be slowly stabilising.
“However you cut the data, it still shows slowing Chinese growth and the trade data underlines a slowdown in activity,” Bhar said. .”.. I would think it would be more of a dead cat bounce and (copper) prices to resume falling again.”
China’s central bank also slashed its forecast for exports on Wednesday, predicting a second straight annual fall in shipments, but said the economy will still grow 6.8 percent this year.
The dollar hit a five-week trough against a basket of currencies on Wednesday, hurt by waning expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates any time soon, boosting the buying power of commodities users paying with other currencies.
Zinc rose 2.6 percent in official trading to $2,054, nickel added 3.5 percent to $8,880, lead was bid up 1.6 percent at $1,736 and tin was bid 0.9 percent firmer at $17,050.