Copper futures prices closed mixed Friday on New York's Commodity Exchange after a steep morning sell-off as prospects for settlement of a 31/2-week-old nationwide miners' strike in Peru appeared to diminish.
On other markets, in generally light Veterans' Day trading, precious metals were mixed; stock-index futures fell sharply; grains and soybeans were mostly lower; energy futures were mixed; cattle futures were lower and pork futures were mixed.Copper settled 1.65 cents lower to .10 cent higher with the contract for spot delivery at $1.432 a pound and the active December contract at $1.351 a pound.
The December contract's dramatic recovery from a 5.45-cent decline early in the session suggested the bull market for copper may not be over despite Thursday's steep losses of nearly 9 cents a pound, analysts said.
"The fact that the market closed so much off its lows today, on Friday, when you normally would get a lot of nervous selling ahead of the weekend, is very constructive," said Bernard Savaiko, metals market analyst with PaineWebber Inc. in New York.
Thursday's decline was sparked by reports that the Southern Peru Copper Co., the largest copper-mining firm in the world's sixth-largest copper-producing nation, had come to contract terms with some of its non-mining employees.
It appeared on Thursday that a settlement with the miners also was imminent. But on Friday, Southern Peru miners reportedly rejected the company's offer of substantial wage increases.
"The miners want to have a united front - they want a united mine workers' union and they want a nationwide settlement," Savaiko said.
The Peruvian strike has been a major factor in spot copper's rise from about $1 a pound in August to the recent record high of $1.538. But copper supplies have been growing tighter for about 11/2 years, and that situation is expected to continue.
With the Peruvian picture turning muddy, traders were looking ahead to Monday's weekly report on London Metal Exchange warehouse stocks of copper.
Savaiko said the exchange is expected to report a 5,000- to 7,000-metric-ton decline in its copper stocks in the past week.