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Copper prices rise on positive news from China

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SANDY SHORE | April 12, 2012 05:05 PM EST | AP

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Copper prices rose 2.2 percent Thursday as positive news from China raised expectations that demand may strengthen for the industrial metal, which is used in everything from building materials to consumer electronics.

Investors were encouraged after China's central bank reported an unexpected increase in loans last month. The country is scheduled to release gross domestic product and industrial production data on Friday.

The new lending numbers could indicate that the first-quarter GDP numbers may be "fairly strong," according to a research report from Capital Economics.

That could ease concerns about a slowdown in China, which is the world's second-largest economy. The country is a huge importer of copper and other raw materials used in a vast number of industries.

Copper for May delivery rose 8.1 cents to end at $3.7205 per pound. The gain snapped a three-day losing streak but the price remains well below the high for the year of $3.98 per pound it reached Feb. 9.

Copper and other commodities also benefited from a report that the U.S. trade deficit shrank in February to $46 billion, which was a four-month low. Exports rose to an all-time high. The smaller trade deficit raised the possibility that the economy grew faster in the first quarter than previously expected.

Commodities also rose because the dollar weakened against other currencies. Since commodities are priced in dollars, a weaker dollar makes them more of a bargain for traders who use other currencies such as the euro.

Gold for June delivery rose $20.30 to finish at $1,680.60 an ounce and May silver rose $1, or 3.2 percent, to $32.525 an ounce. July platinum increased $21.70 to end at $1,606 per ounce and June palladium ended up $16.50, or 2.6 percent, at $653.10 an ounce.

Benchmark oil prices rose 94 cents to finish at $103.64 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil increased 5.14 cents to $3.1663 per gallon and gasoline futures rose 6.12 cents to $3.3567 per gallon. Natural gas fell 0.1 cent to $1.983 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In May agricultural contracts, wheat increased 11.25 cents to finish at $6.3925 per bushel, corn rose 1.5 cents to $6.375 per bushel and soybeans ended up 19 cents at $14.41 per bushel.