LME three-month copper was last bid up 0.77 percent at $6,560 a tonne, after prices slipped 1.4 percent on Wednesday. Prices hit a two-week top of $6,623.75 on Tuesday, off this month's 3-1/2 year low of $6,321. "Clearly we've seen plenty of reports about increased consumer buying in Europe and there's been signs of increased Chinese consumer buying as well and a pick-up in orders," said Wiktor Bielski, head of commodities research at VTB Capital. In China, there were signs of a pick-up in seasonal demand as warmer weather led to more manufacturing and construction. "Demand has definitely picked up in late March compared to early March on a seasonal basis, and will improve further in April," analyst Chunlan Li at CRU in Beijing said.
Copper may also struggle technically after plunging to a 3-1/2-year low on March 19, some analysts said. "I think the (down) move in copper was entirely technical, copper broke (key) support and there was a flood of selling from the high-frequency funds," Bielski said. "A recovery will depend on the same factors in the other direction." Indonesia's government has reached a deal over export taxes with US mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc FCX.N, which should resume copper shipments next month.
Aluminium prices recovered after initially falling on news that a UK court ruling had dealt a blow to a key LME reform aimed at cutting logjams at metals warehouses. LME aluminium ended up 0.52 percent to $1,738 a tonne. "We would not be surprised to see LME warehouse inventories at warehouse locations impacted by queues to increase before and even after the April 1st date while the LME sorts itself out," said Standard Bank in response to the news.
Also in aluminium, an Indonesian ban on unprocessed ore, which has driven nickel prices higher this year, could be important in driving up aluminium next year, said Marco Georgiou at CRU. Nickel has been the best-performing base metal this year, rising 13 percent, but declined for the second session as some investors thought the gains were exaggerated. LME nickel shed 1.23 percent to end at $15,705 a tonne. There were valid fundamental reasons behind this year's rally, Bielski said. Lead ended up 0.05 percent at $2,067 a tonne, zinc ended up 0.10 percent at $1,972 a tonne while tin ended down 0.74 percent at $22,800 a tonne.