COMMODITIES : Volatile Copper Futures Prices Turn Higher Again

From Associated Press

Prices of copper futures rose sharply Tuesday, indicating strong demand despite indications that supplies will be rising soon.

On other markets, precious metals futures were mixed; orange juice futures plunged; grains and soybeans, livestock, meat and energy futures all were mixed, and stock index futures fell.

After reaching an all-time high of $1.46 a pound at the end of 1987, copper futures have traded in a range from about 85 cents a pound to about $1.05.

Copper for May delivery settled 2.7 cents higher at $1.03 a pound on the Commodity Exchange in New York.


“Every time the market dips, the trade buys it,” said John O’Connell, metals analyst with Refco Inc.

Copper’s steep increase last year stemmed from a shortage. Although the market remains fairly tight, an increase in readily available supplies now allows for more price elasticity, analysts said.

Richard Levine, vice president of precious metals and foreign exchange at Elders Futures Inc. in New York, said he expected copper prices to continue hovering within the current range.

“Copper above $1 is just too high given the amount of production capability, and below 85 cents is too low to warrant the production to come out,” he said. “But anywhere in the 90 cents-to-$1 range is safe territory.”


Gold Futures Rebound

Also on the Commodity Exchange, gold futures finished slightly higher while silver futures posted modest losses.

Gold initially fell in reaction to a government report showing a dramatic narrowing of the U.S. trade deficit, then recovered on ideas that an increase in manufacturing activity would ultimately prove inflationary, Levine said.

Gold settled 10 cents to 60 cents higher, with June at $456.40 an ounce; silver was 4 cents to 4.5 cents lower, with May at $6.54 an ounce.


Frozen concentrated orange juice futures plunged on the New York Cotton Exchange on selling inspired by the coming expiration of the May contract, analysts said.

Grain, Soybeans Mixed

Orange juice futures have climbed from about $1.30 a pound last fall to about $1.70. But a recent decline in wholesale sales of orange juice indicates falling demand because of high prices, analysts said.

Orange juice settled 2 cents to 6.50 cents lower, with May at $1.6715 a pound.


Grain and soybean futures finished mixed on the Chicago Board of Trade amid conflicting forecasts for Midwestern crop weather.

Soybean futures, which led a powerful rally Monday, were restrained by soybean oil, which faced weak cash markets and slack demand, analysts said.

But weather watchers dominated the trade, said Richard Loewy, senior grain and oil seed analyst for Prudential Bache Securities in New York.

“We had a two-sided affair because rain was being forecast by some meteorologists” in contrast with earlier predictions for hot, dry weather until late in the week, Loewy said. “But the bulk of them are still looking hot and dry.”


Wheat settled 1 cent to 4 cents lower, with May at $3.18 a bushel; corn was 0.75 cent to 2 cents higher, with May at $2.08 a bushel; oats were 1.50 cents to 2.75 cents lower, with May at $1.61 a bushel, and soybeans were 0.50 cent lower to 4 cents higher, with May at $7.505 a bushel.

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