Copper prices jump on improving US jobs market

AP News
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Posted: Feb 03, 2012 4:09 PM
Copper prices jump on improving US jobs market

Copper prices jumped 3.2 percent Friday after a sharp improvement in the U.S. job market and higher factory orders raised hopes for stronger demand.

The move ended an erratic week of small price losses and gains for the industrial metal as investors looked for clues about what's ahead for the global economy in a slew of economic reports from several countries. Copper can be an indicator of economic health because it is used in a wide range of products from consumer electronics to pipes and wires.

The government said 243,000 jobs were added in January across a broad array of industries. Manufacturing alone added 50,000 jobs, the most in a year. January's unemployment rate dropped to 8.3 percent and factory orders rose 1.1 percent in December.

Separately, a trade group said service companies grew at the fastest pace in 11 months in January as companies hired workers to keep up with demand.

The data pointed to an improving U.S. economy which is "the bottom line" for industrial metals like copper, said Matt Zeman, a Kingsview Financial analyst.

However, copper prices likely will remain choppy in the near term because of concerns about a slower economy in China, which is a huge importer of the metal, he said. The other unknown factor is how much of an impact Europe's debt crisis will have on the global economy.

Copper for March delivery rose 12.05 cents to finish at $3.9015 per pound. That's up 2 percent since Monday and 10.6 percent for the year.

In other trading, gold for April delivery fell $19 to finish at $1,740.30 an ounce and March silver declined 42.6 cents to $33.749 per ounce. April platinum rose $2 to end at $1,631.90 per ounce and March palladium increased $1.20 to $708.85 per ounce.

In other trading, benchmark oil rose $1.48 to finish at $97.84 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil increased 6.15 cents to end at $3.1144 per gallon, gasoline futures rose 4.55 cents to $2.9144 per gallon and natural gas fell 5.5 cents to $2.499 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In March agriculture contracts, wheat fell 2 cents to finish at $6.6075 per bushel, corn rose 1.5 cents to $6.445 per bushel and soybeans increased 15.5 cents to $12.325 per bushel.