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TheStreet Open House

Copper Prices Pause on Greece, Fed


NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Copper futures showed little reaction to news that Greece had passed a vote of confidence ahead of an expected bailout.

According to Adam Grimes, director of technical investments at Waverly Advisors, the trading volume for copper futures is about 80% of average trading volume, a bit lower than expected for a normally light season for commodities.

Copper on the London Metals Exchange was floating around $9,027 per ton, or $4.10 per pound earlier this morning. Yesterday's three-month copper contracts on the LME settled higher at $4.11 per pound upon speculation that the Greek prime minister would receive a vote of confidence.

The euro was weakening against the greenback this morning by 0.1%, having previously priced in the anticipated good news from Greece. The dollar was losing 0.1% compared to a basket of currencies.

On the Comex this morning, July copper futures were essentially flat at $4.08 per pound. Copper settled at $4.09 per pound at the end of Tuesday's session.

July futures for copper on the Shanghai Metals Exchange finished at $4.76 yesterday.

While the copper market looks "quiet and boring" right now, it's during these times that traders are paying attention, said Grimes, who applies quantitative methodology in futures trading and holds a short position in copper. "Copper is sitting on the edge of a cliff. A very small downward movement could trigger further downside. Overall, we're cautious on our position in copper."

Further problems plagued copper production in Codelco's Chuquicamata copper mine in Chile, according to Reuters. The company was forced to slash output at its El Teniente mine more than one month ago because of labor protests. On Wednesday, union workers blocked traffic to Chuquicamata, demanding higher wages. The company has not said whether the blockade will danger mining output levels yet.

Copper mining stocks were flat to positive, with mining company Southern Copper (SCCO) up 1% at $31.40 and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX) up 0.4% at $49.43.

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Lihua International (LIWA) plans to ramp up scrap copper from abroad instead of buying from domestic importers, according to a company press release. The Chinese copper wire manufacturer announced this morning that it had gotten a green light from China's Ministry of Environmental Protection.

"By making direct purchase from overseas suppliers, we believe that over time we can achieve considerable raw material cost savings, which we believe will drive incremental gains to our bottom line as we continue to expand our scrap copper refinery capacity," said Lihua's CEO Jianhua Zhu. Lihua was last gaining 10% to $6.53 per share on the Nasdaq.

The level of Chinese demand in copper as reflected by how much buyers are importing has been crucial to the copper market which largely reacts to the fundamentals of supply and demand.

-- Written by Chao Deng in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Chao Deng.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to: @chao_deng

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com. Copyright 2011 TheStreet.com Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright 2011 TheStreet.com Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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