Copper futures prices rallied and settled above $1 a pound Wednesday on technical factors and anticipation of a seasonal upswing in demand.
On other markets, precious metals were mixed; energy futures retreated, and stock index futures advanced.
Copper's surge on New York's Commodity Exchange followed about five weeks of steady declines preceded by more than six months of record gains linked to tight supplies.
The price for March delivery of copper, which had fallen more than 30 cents a pound since its Dec. 31 high of about $1.28, gained 4.60 cents Wednesday to settle at $1.017 a pound.
Analysts said copper's recent losses were as exaggerated as its earlier gains and that Wednesday's rally indicated that the market was seeking more realistic levels.
"People are getting a little more confident in the market now," said Fred Demler, metals analyst for the investment firm Drexel Burnham Lambert. "This is the first major rally since the selloff in January."
Demler and others also said user demand for copper, which slackened in January, typically picks up in late winter.
Also on the Comex, gold futures retreated slightly while silver made small gains.
Gold settled $1 to $2 lower with the active April contract at $443.90 an ounce. Silver was 1.5 cents to 1.7 cents higher with March at $6.305 an ounce.
Sharp losses in the refined products led energy futures lower on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil settled 23 cents to 29 cents lower with March at $17.13 a barrel; heating oil was 0.98 cent to 1.32 cents lower with March at 47.28 cents a gallon, and unleaded gasoline was 1.05 cents to 1.15 cents lower with March at 46.48 cents a gallon.
Arbitrage program trading helped drive stock index futures higher on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, analysts said.
The contract for March delivery of the S&P 500 index settled 3.05 points higher at 257.95. The underlying spot index gained 4.94 points, closing at 256.66.
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