METALS-Copper pushes back towards highs as investors regain their nerve

(Updates throughout, changes dateline from HANOI)

LONDON, Dec 23 (Reuters) – Copper prices pushed back towards multi-year highs on Wednesday, with stock markets and oil prices also rising and the dollar weakening as investors spooked by the emergence of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus regained their nerve.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was up 0.8% at $7,808 a tonne by 1200 GMT, nearing Friday’s peak of $8,028, its highest since 2013.

The metal used in power and construction fell on Monday and Tuesday after the mutated virus threatened to slow the global economic recovery and metals demand.

Nonetheless, prices are up about 30% this year thanks to strong Chinese demand and massive speculative investment.

An increase in coronavirus cases could disrupt supply of copper just as much as demand, said independent analyst Robin Bhar. “People will continue to buy the dips,” he said.

CHINA: The central bank will scale back support for the Chinese economy in 2021 and cool credit growth, but fears of derailing a recovery will keep it cautious, policy sources said.

U.S. STIMULUS: U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to refrain from signing an $892 billion coronavirus relief bill.

DOLLAR: The U.S. currency slipped, with many analysts and investors expecting it to weaken further in 2021, helping dollar-priced metals by making them cheaper for non-U.S. buyers.

COPPER STOCKS: Inventories in warehouses registered with the LME, Comex and the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) are falling, with ShFE stockpiles at their lowest since 2011. CU-STX-SGHHG-STX-COMEXMCUSTX-TOTAL

CHILE: Codelco, the world’s top copper producer, said it had reached a labour agreement ahead of schedule with the supervisors’ union at its Chuquicamata mine.

ALUMINIUM: China’s aluminium imports reached a record annual high with a month to spare, customs data showed.

PRICES: LME aluminium was up 0.4% at $2,004 a tonne, zinc rose 1.4% to $2,814, nickel gained 0.5% to $16,690, lead added 0.7% to $1,978 and tin was up 0.1% at $20,025.

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