After a rocky couple of weeks, the price of copper had its biggest gain of the year on Tuesday as investors hoped for economic stimulus from China.
Copper has fallen sharply this month, and is down 7 percent since March 6, when it traded at $3.22 a pound. On Tuesday, the heavily traded May contract for copper rose 6 cents, or 2 percent, to $3.01 a pound.
Traders are hoping that the metal's recent slide may be ending and that China will take more action to shore up its economy. China is a huge importer of copper and tends to use more of it when its manufacturing sector is thriving.
"The copper market has suffered mightily for the early part of March, and we had enough of a consolidation at the bottom that you have less of an interest in people continuing to sell," said Sterling Smith, a commodities analyst at Citigroup.
"You've got some fresh speculative buying predicated on the Chinese taking a little more aggressive stance in dealing with the slowdown in their economy," he said.
Other metals were mixed.
Gold for April edged up 20 cents to $1,311.40 an ounce. The price of silver fell 9 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $19.98 an ounce.
April platinum dropped $10.30, or 0.7 percent, to $1,420.90 an ounce. Palladium for June delivery fell $4.95, or 0.6 percent, to $789.40 an ounce.
Agricultural contracts ended mixed.
Wheat for May delivery fell 6 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $7.09 a bushel. Corn for May fell 4 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $4.86 a bushel. Soybeans for the same month climbed two cents, or 0.2 percent, to $14.28 a bushel.
The price of oil slipped slightly as the market weighed potentially weaker global economic growth against continued disruptions of Libyan crude supplies.
The actively trade May contract for crude oil fell 41 cents to close at $99.19 in New York.
In other energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline fell 0.4 cents to close at $2.882 a gallon, heating oil rose 1.1 cents to close at $2.921 a gallon and natural gas rose 13.5 cents to close at $4.411 per 1,000 cubic feet.
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