Copper traders diverge from hedge funds on recovery

China’s Demand

China will still need 450,000 tons of new copper this year, Javier Targhetta, senior vice president of marketing and sales at Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc., said in Madrid two days ago. The nation’s copper usage will climb as much as 5% in the next five years, Rodrigo Toro, corporate sales vice president at Codelco, the biggest producer, said the same day.

In other commodities, eight of 15 people surveyed expect raw sugar to rise next week and four predicted a drop. The commodity slid 3.2% to 18.88 cents a pound on ICE Futures U.S. in New York this year.

Ten of 25 people surveyed anticipate higher corn prices next week and nine said the grain will drop, while 14 of 26 said soybeans will climb and 10 expect lower prices. Eleven of 23 traders predicted gains in wheat and nine were bearish. Corn fell 0.7% to $6.935 a bushel in Chicago this year as soybeans rose 4.7% to $14.7575 a bushel. Wheat slipped 11% to $6.935 a bushel.

Gold Survey

Twenty-three of 32 traders and analysts surveyed said gold would advance next week, five were bearish and four predicted little change. Bullion fell 6.5% to $1,567.15 an ounce in London this year after advancing the previous 12 years, the longest run of gains in at least nine decades. It slumped the past five months in the worst losing streak since 1997.

The S&P gauge of raw materials dropped 5.3% from a four-month high on Feb. 13, reaching a 10-week low March 4. U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the start of $85 billion in spending cuts on March 1, beginning a potentially decade-long wave of belt-tightening. Combined with tax increases enacted earlier this year, that will depress U.S. economic growth by about half in 2013, according to government projections.

“For many developed markets you’ve got a situation where they’re going down the route of fiscal austerity and there are significant drawbacks to that,” said Ross Strachan, a commodities economist at Capital Economics Ltd. in London “The U.S. is a little bit stronger at the moment, so they may be able to offset some of that negative effect.”

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