Updated from 1:15 p.m. EDT
Gold continued to climb toward $600 an ounce Wednesday, but it was copper's turn to make the headlines as the base metal touched a new all-time high.
Copper traded up to a record $2.60 a pound during the session before closing at $2.596 for a gain of 6.05 cents. Supply constraints, highlighted by a bullish note from Credit Suisse, helped fuel the move in copper and most metals, including gold.
Gold also closed higher, drawing support from higher oil prices.A drop in U.S. gasoline inventories pushed up May crude 87 cents to $67.10. With gold trading in tandem with oil in recent times, gold for June delivery rose $1.90, or 0.3%, to $592.50 an ounce. Gold touched a 25-year high of $596.80 on Monday. Elsewhere, silver, which touched a 22-year high of $11.815 an ounce on Monday, dropped 2.5 cents to $11.705. With copper setting an all-time high, the base metal was attracting more attention than its precious counterparts. Copper, used in everything from construction to electronics, is up 85% since late 2001 amid surging demand from China, tight supplies and ongoing production disruptions. "With stock drawdowns gaining momentum in most of the metals and with consumers likely to be gearing up ahead of the summer slowdown, physical demand should be gaining momentum," wrote William Adams, an analyst at BaseMetals.com. "This, and ongoing concerns over supply are likely to underpin prices, so unless some external event upsets the funds, the upward trends are likely to keep prices on the rise." A miners' strike is affecting a Grupo Mexico copper mine in northern Mexico. Its workers, who demand higher wages, have united with striking steelworkers this week, and both are calling on President Vicente Fox to intervene, Reuters reported. With copper prices rising 25% so far this year, "unions are eager to share in the higher profitability levels of the industry," the metals and mining group at Credit Suisse wrote in a research note. Chilean workers at key copper producing companies such as Codelco, BHP Billiton (BBL) and Falconbridge (FAL) are all pressing for higher wages and this could lead to strikes this year, the analysts say. On Wednesday, the group raised its price forecast for copper to $2.24 from $1.90 a pound for the first quarter and to $2.17 from $1.80 for 2006. In conjunction, Credit Suisse raised its 2006 earnings forecasts for Phelps Dodge (PD) to $9.15 per share from $7.50 previously. It also lifted its price target to $100 from $85. Phelps Dodge closed up 3.5% at $87.58. Credit Suisse analyst David Gagliano also lifted his 2006 forecast for aluminum to $1.02 per pound from 90 cents previously. Aluminum advanced 1.45 cents to $1.1465 on Wednesday. Gagliano lifted 2006 earnings forecast for Alcan (AL - Get Report) to $4.25 from $3.90 previously and his price target on the stock to $54 from $50. Alcan rose 4.6% to $49.67 on Wednesday. Ditto for Alcoa (AA - Get Report), whose 2006 earnings forecast was lifted to $2.16 from $1.75 and price target was raised to $37 from $35. The stock rose 2.6% to $31.67.