SINGAPORE: London copper kicked off the new year on a positive note on Thursday, rising to its highest since June on expectations that economic recovery in top consumer China will drive demand.
Copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) rose more than 4 percent in December, its biggest monthly gain since September, 2012, riding on the hopes of economic optimism. Three-month LME copper was trading 1 percent higher at $7,432.25 a tonne on Thursday, its highest since June 6.
The most-traded March copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange added 0.5 percent to 52,560 yuan a tonne.
China has said industrial output may have grown 9.8 percent in 2013, and economic growth could come in at 7.6 percent, just above the official target of 7.5 percent and slightly below the 7.7 percent pace in 2012.
In addition to Chinese demand prospects, shortages of refined copper are also supporting prices. "Robust demand continues to draw down on stocks, not just on LME but globally on all exchange warehouses," said Joyce Liu, an investment analyst at Phillip Futures Singapore. "Demand outlook is particularly optimistic because much of the social and environmental reforms that China is looking at are copper-intensive." The rally in copper came even as China's factory activity expanded at the slowest pace in three months in December, weighed down by shrinking export orders, a private survey showed on Thursday.
The final HSBC/Markit manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) slipped to 50.5 in December from 50.8 in November, unchanged from a preliminary reading. China's official manufacturing PMI, released on Wednesday, also showed growth in factories slowed slightly in December as export orders and output weakened.
Copper fell 7.2 percent in 2013 but the decline was more modest than many expected as an anticipated surge in new mine production faced processing backlogs, creating delays for refined product such as cathodes used in high grade applications.