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Copper soars to 20-month high on supply concerns

Investing.com -

Investing.com - Copper futures rallied to the highest level since May 2015 on Monday, amid concerns over an ongoing strike at the Escondida copper mine in Chile, the largest in the world.

Copper for March delivery on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange tacked on 2.4 cents, or around 0.9%, to trade at $2.792 a pound by 8:05AM ET (13:05GMT). It touched a session high of $2.823 during Asian trade, the most in 20 months.

Meanwhile, three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange advanced 0.7% to $6,131.75 a metric ton after rising to $6.202.25 earlier.

Workers at the Escondida mine in northern Chile have been on strike since last Thursday after talks between management and workers broke down.

The workers union has warned that the strike could be lengthy, potentially affecting global supplies.

The mine, which is owned by BHP Billiton (LON:BLT), produces roughly 5% of the world's total copper supply.

Prices received additional support after Freeport-McMoran (NYSE:FCX) said that an export ban remains in place at its Grasberg mine in Indonesia, the world's second biggest, because it has not yet reached agreement with the government on a new mining permit.

That comes against a backdrop of encouraging demand signals from China, which posted much stronger-than-expected trade data for January as demand picked up at home and abroad.

The Asian nation is the world's largest copper consumer, accounting for nearly 45% of world consumption.

Elsewhere in metals trading, gold prices were slightly lower as recent actions by U.S. President Donald Trump helped soothe investor worries about uncertainty surrounding the new administration's controversial policies.

The market's near-term focus was on Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's congressional testimony scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Her comments will be monitored closely for any new insight on policy and the timing of when it might raise interest rates.

Investors will also keep an eye out on a number of U.S. economic reports in the week ahead, including the January producer price index on Tuesday, the January consumer price index and retail sales on Wednesday and housing-related data on Thursday.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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