Copper price boost as Chinese imports rebound

The copper price hit an 18-month high on an intraday basis last week as global manufacturing activity continues to pick up and hopes about US president-elect Trump's $500 billion infrastructure plans lift sentiment.

While it's pulled back from those levels since, official customs data from China, responsible for some 45% of the seaborne trade in the red metal, released on Thursday is seeing the metal turn positive again.

In overnight trade on Thursday copper for delivery in March, the most active contract, was exchanging hands for $2.6515 per pound ($5,845 a tonne) on the Comex market in New York, up nearly a penny.

Reuters reports China's copper imports surged 31% to 380,000 tonnes in November compared to October, although shipments were down 18% year on year.

After vastly underperforming other metals and steelmaking raw materials in 2016, copper has been playing catch-up and is now up 37% from six-year lows hit in January this year.

Better prospects for the bellwether metal is nowhere more evident than on derivatives markets and the shift in positioning of large-scale derivatives speculators such as hedge funds.

While continuing to reduce bullish silver, platinum and gold bets, on the copper market hedge funds have added to long positions – bets on higher prices in future – for four weeks in a row.

According to the CFTC's weekly Commitment of Traders data up to November 29 so-called managed money investors have taken net longs to a fresh recored high of just under 81,000 lots.

That's the equivalent of just over 2 billion pounds and shatters the previous peaks achieved mid-2014 when the copper price was above $3.20 a pound.