Copper on the move, is China the reason?

Copper reached a three-week high in New York after China’s new credit gained to a record, supporting demand prospects in the world’s biggest user of the metal.

Aggregate financing was 2.58 trillion yuan ($425 billion) last month, China’s central bank said Feb. 15. The data followed better-than-estimated trade figures, suggesting officials can limit the scale of any economic slowdown. Chinese manufacturing contracted again this month, economists surveyed by Bloomberg said before a private gauge due Feb. 20.

“Base-metals prices are rallying and are looking quite robust, with some strong credit data out of China boosting sentiment,” William Adams, an analyst at FastMarkets.com, wrote in a report today.

Copper for delivery in March added 0.5 percent to $3.28 a pound by 10:17 a.m. on the Comex in New York, where floor trading is closed today for the Presidents’ Day holiday. Prices touched $3.32, the highest since Jan. 23, and exceeded the 100- day moving average at about $3.276. Copper for delivery in three months rose 0.4 percent to $7,179 a metric ton on the London Metal Exchange.

Stockpiles of copper monitored by the LME, at a 14-month low, slid 1 percent to 296,025 tons, daily data showed. Metal for immediate delivery traded as much as $33 above the contract for delivery in three months. Higher prices for earlier deliveries, or backwardation, usually signal limited supply.

“LME inventory declines reflect stocks shifting off market rather than a deficit market” because of Chinese financing deals, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analyst Max Layton wrote in a report today. “Since we do not expect these deals to end anytime soon, LME spread tightness is very likely to persist and LME stocks are likely to continue to move off market.”

Goldman Sachs retained its “cautious view” on copper, saying the market is headed for an oversupply and forecasting LME prices will fall to $6,600 a ton in six months.

Money managers more than doubled their net-short position in Comex copper, or bet on lower prices, to 15,792 contracts in the latest week, government data show.

Tin reached the highest price in almost 10 weeks in London. Aluminum, nickel, lead and zinc gained.

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