Copper, Aluminum Rise on China Imports

Copper futures on the London Metal Exchange hit a fresh 20-month high on Monday after sentiment across commodities turned more bullish on a weaker dollar.
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Copper futures on the London Metal Exchange hit a fresh 20-month high on Monday after sentiment across commodities turned more bullish on a weaker dollar fueled by hopes a bailout plan for Greece will cut the risk of a default.

Three-month copper on the LME rose 1.1% to $8,010 a ton after touching a fresh 20-month high of $8,042.75 in brisk electronic trading. Copper had cooled after touching a high of $8,010

last week

.

China, the largest consumer of the metal, witnessed a surge in imports during March despite higher prices as factories returned to work after the long Lunar New Year holidays.

Imports of unwrought and semi-finished copper soared 41.6% to 456,240 metric tons in March from the previous month's 322,282 metric tons and a year-over-year increase of 22%.

Meanwhile, aluminum futures touched an 18-month high on the LME rising $23 to $2,429. Aluminum prices have increased 3.6% this month.

According to the figures from Chinese Customs, imports of unwrought aluminum and aluminum products more than doubled in March to 147,181 tons from 60,074 tons in February.

Aluminum stocks

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

and

Aluminum Corp of China

(ACH) - Get Report

have gained 5.3% and 10%, respectively, in the last month.

Alcoa is scheduled to announce its first-quarter earnings after the market closes Monday. According to a

Bloomberg

survey, the company is expected to report earnings of 9 cents a share compared with a year-earlier loss of 61 cents. Revenue is forecasted at $5.23 billion, representing an increase of 26% from last year.

It's widely expected that Alcoa will report a first-quarter profit but Wall Street is unconvinced the company can post higher numbers with the price of aluminum only slowly inching up from the recession. The metal has only gained about 3.3% during the first quarter.

World copper consumption is expected to grow 5.4% this year, led by China which is expected to buy nearly 40% of global output, industry experts told the World Copper Conference on April 7.

Attributing the spike in price to China, Richard Adkerson, CEO of

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold

(FCX) - Get Report

told

Bloomberg

, "There's no assurance" about the timing and extent of recovery in the developed world, meaning prices are driven by China.

Freeport-McMoRan closed at $85.67 on Friday, down 0.44%. The stock has 12 buy, five hold and one sell rating, according to

TheStreet's

Analyst ratings guide.

Other copper stocks,

Southern Copper

(SCCO) - Get Report

and

Teck Resources

(TCK)

stood at $34.89 and $45.93, respectively, at the close of trade Friday.

Meanwhile,

Codelco

, the world's biggest copper producer, announced its plans of investing $15 billion over the next five years to develop new projects in order to take full advantage of the growing global copper demand, led primarily by emerging economies.

However,

Anglo American

, the world's sixth-largest copper producer, warned that copper might be "vulnerable" if China slows purchases. "That's (copper) obviously vulnerable to economic surprises," John MacKenzie, head of its copper business. told

Bloomberg

last week. "Those could come out of China, those could come out of the U.S. or out of Europe," he added.

Russian aluminum maker

Rusal

, which accounts of about 10% of global aluminum production, plans to increase aluminum output by about 100,000 tons this year by restarting idled plants in order meet an anticipated rise in global demand, CEO Oleg Deripaska said during an announcement of results Monday.