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Industrial metals exchange traded funds such as those for copper and nickel have enjoyed a nice ride on the economic recovery, but some are wondering if momentum is waning for the sector.

Nickel producers, like Vale (NYSE:VALE) and Xstrata Plc (OTC:XSRAF), are increasing output after prices on nickel, which helps prevent corrosion in stainless steel, surged above $29,000 per metric ton in February, a high last seen in April 2008, reports Juan Pablo Spinetto for Bloomberg. Meanwhile, global output is projected to increase 10% on increased demand from construction and industrials as global economies improve.

At the World Economic Forum conference in Rio De Janeiro, Walter De Simoni, chief executive officer of Anglo American Brasil Nickel, commented that “after the 2008 crisis, the nickel business recovered faster than everybody would have thought and the price now is much stronger.”

However, pessimistic news attributed to worsening finances in Europe, cooling measure in China and rising inflation have dampened the confidence of copper bulls, reports Andrea Hotter for The Wall Street Journal. Copper prices have already receded more than 8% after tripling in around two years.

Global copper inventories are on the rise, with stockpiles in China, the world’s largest copper consumer, continuing to increase. The accumulated stockpiles could be consumed domestically, which would reduce imports, after Chinese regulators tightened rules on repatriating foreign currency from re-exporting copper.

MF Global analyst Ed Meir ponders whether the weaker dollar will provide the next boost for the group or will investors sell on the moderate growth outlook. Meir believes the latter will occur as higher energy prices contribute to more inflation.

Exchange-traded note (NYSE:ETN) options include:

  • iPath DJ-UBS AIG Copper ETN (NYSEArca: JJC)
  • iPath DJ-UBS Nickel TR Sub-Idx ETN (NYSEARCA:JJN)
  • iPath Pure Beta Copper ETN (NYSEARCA:CUPM)
  • iPath Pure Beta Nickel ETN (NYSEARCA:NINI)

ETF options include:

  • First Trust ISE Global Copper (NASDAQ: CU)
  • Global X Copper Miners ETF (NYSEArca: COPX)

Max Chen contributed to this article.