U.S. copper futures rumbled to a new record top in thin dealings on Tuesday, propped up by sharp falls in the dollar, a strong Chinese currency and threats of supply disruptions, analysts said.
The benchmark fourth month copper contract on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange hit a record peak of $4.3195 per lb and was trading 2.25 cents up at $4.3025 at 10:20 a.m. EST.
Volume of business, though, stood at 7,200 lots, well below the 30-day norm of over 42,000 lots, Thomson Reuters preliminary data showed.
"We're making highs on extremely thin volume," said Sean McGillivray, head of asset allocation for Great Pacific Wealth Management in Oregon.
He said it was hard to seriously consider the highs notched by copper because they need to be "validated with volume."
Many players already have taken off for the holidays and will return after the New Year, opting to book whatever profits they already have posted in the market.
Copper is up nearly 30 percent year to date in the Reuters Jefferies commodity index.
Technically, COMEX copper was expected to briefly enter a range of $4.40 to $4.50 per lb over the next four weeks and then retrace to $4.045 cents, according to Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao.
Shanghai copper closed up 290 yuan at 69,000 yuan a ton. The People's Bank of China fixed the yuan's daily mid-point versus the dollar at 6.6252, just shy of 6.6239 hit on Nov. 12, the strongest yuan mid-point since its landmark revaluation in July 2005.
McGillivray said China's Christmas Day interest rate hike to fight inflation may not be enough for the market and a further spike would be needed to convince players Beijing's inflation battle is "credible."
The continued closure of Chile's Patache port terminal since a Dec. 18 shiploader accident will continue to underpin sentiment, with the Collahuasi mine maintaining production but as yet unable to secure an alternative route to get the concentrate to customers.
In the longer term, expectations of a supply deficit next year were also expected to keep copper on the upward trajectory that has seen it rally by more than a quarter this year.
McGillivray said demand out of top consumer China remained "fairly strong," so the trend for the metal was higher.
The London Metal Exchange was closed on Monday and Tuesday for Christmas and trade will resume on Wednesday. When Shanghai closed on Friday, LME copper stood at $9,345 a ton. Since then, the Chinese market has gained just 50 yuan.
On Friday, a series of U.S. data will offer fresh direction, including a read on the housing market. Construction is a major consumer of copper with around a fifth of a ton of the metal used in a typical U.S. home.
Consumer confidence and chain-store sales will also be closely watched for sign that the recovery in the United States continued over the holiday period.
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