Thursday was a good day for base metals bulls. Month-end window dressing and supply concerns pushed the PowerShares DB Base Metals Fund (Amex: DBB) up an impressive 4.75%. Futures on three metals - aluminum, copper and zinc - make up the DBB portfolio.
Energy-intensive aluminum, along with zinc, was bolstered by ongoing supply constraints in China and South Africa, where power shortages are plaguing refiners. Copper futures ended firm on Thursday, as well, with the positive turnaround on Wall Street adding bullish momentum.
COMEX aluminum for February delivery settled 2.75 cents, or 2.36%, higher at $1.19 per pound, driven by forecasts of a 200,000-ton decrease in Chinese aluminum output due to the storm-induced power outages.
March COMEX copper finished 7.15 cents, or 2.22%, higher to settle at $3.298 per pound. The market for the red metal has actually looked a bit overbought after rebounding from a $2.87 low last month. Volatility appears to be picking up as well.
Zinc, though, was really the star in the DBB universe. Three-month futures on LME ratcheted up 8.38% to $1.0954 per pound on fund buying following smelter shutdowns in China.
China is the world's biggest producer of zinc, cranking out 3.75 million tons of metal last year. This winter's power shortages and transportation snarls may cut deeply into production.
And that may just be the spark needed to ignite a rally in the market.