Copper futures prices resumed their climb Tuesday after a break linked to the stock market, with the nearby December contract settling just 55 points short of its lifetime high.
On other markets, precious metals retreated, cotton futures fell sharply, grains and soybeans were mostly higher and livestock and meat futures were mixed. Energy futures were slightly lower and stock index futures declined.
Copper futures, which have been rising since May amid tightening supplies and increasing demand, continued to advance on the Commodities Exchange in New York.
The December contract settled at $1.1995 cents a pound, up 5.15 cents from Monday's close and 55 points below the contract's lifetime high of $1.2050.
"All we need is 60 points" to set a contract high, said Stephen W. Platt, an analyst in Chicago with Dean Witter Reynolds. "In that market, that's someone sneezing."
Sees a Nearby Peak
The December contract's price had fallen 3.30 cents on Monday as a sharp drop in stock prices prompted recessionary fears.
Analysts noted that the price gap between contracts for December and March delivery--a measure of near-term demand--widened Tuesday from 12.60 cents to 13.25 cents.
Analyst Randolph Doney of Elders Futures Inc. in New York, said the bull market for copper futures may be nearing its peak.
"I think you can still buy dips in this market, but you have to become more wary as time wears on," Doney said. "Eventually you're going to reach equilibrium (when supplies match demand) and be looking at the other side of the mountain."
Also on the Comex, precious metals futures followed foreign exchange rates closely and ended slightly lower as the dollar's slide was halted by central bank intervention, Doney said.
Gold settled 60 cents to $1 lower, with December at $490.40 an ounce; silver was 11 cents to 13.4 cents lower, with December at $6.927 an ounce.
Some nearby cotton futures fell the 2-cents-a-pound limit for the second straight day on the New York Cotton Exchange, pressured by speculative selling against slack buying, analysts said.
December cotton settled 1.77 cents lower at 67.30 cents a pound.
Grain and soybean futures closed mostly higher on the Chicago Board of Trade. Corn was mixed to slightly lower.
Soybeans led the rally, and analysts viewed the buying there as a resurgence of bullish sentiment after Monday's fairly steep losses, which many linked to profit taking amid Monday's sharp decline in the stock market.
"The fundamentals still look pretty good for beans and (soybean) meal," said Joel Karlin, research analyst with Chicago-based Research Department.
The strength in the soybean complex helped rally corn and wheat, he said.
Wheat settled 0.75 cent lower to 4.25 cents higher, with December at $3.09 a bushel; corn was 1.75 cents lower to 0.25 cent higher, with December at $1.8825 a bushel; oats were 0.50 cent to 4 cents higher, with December at $2.10 a bushel, and soybeans were 3.25 cents to 8.25 cents higher, with January at $6.13 a bushel.
Nearby cattle futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange retreated on follow-through selling from Monday's sharp decline and on sentiment that cash prices for live cattle were nearing seasonal highs, analysts said.
Heavy hog runs on Tuesday eroded a feeling that hogs would bring higher cash prices on Wednesday. Gains also were limited by weak demand for pork products.
Live cattle settled 0.68 cent lower to 0.23 cent higher, with December at 64.17 cents a pound; feeder cattle were 0.87 cent lower to 0.25 cent higher, with January at 74.07 cents a pound; live hogs were 0.08 cent lower to 0.58 cent higher, with December at 43.85 cents a pound, and frozen pork bellies were 0.10 cent lower to 0.17 cent higher, with February at 54.50 cents a pound.
Energy futures retreated on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil settled 1 cent to 6 cents lower, with January at $18.46 a barrel; heating oil was 0.01 cent to 0.33 cent lower, with January at 54.86 cents a gallon, and unleaded gasoline was 0.29 cent lower to 0.08 cent higher.