Copper, one of the oldest commodities known to man, is a product that directly reflects the state of the world economy. It's the world's third most widely used metal after iron and aluminum, and is primarily used in highly cyclical industries such as construction and industrial machinery manufacturing. Profitable extraction of the metal depends on cost-efficient, high-volume mining techniques, and supply is sensitive to the political situation, particularly in those countries where copper mining is a government-controlled enterprise.
Copper was first worked about 7,000 years ago. Its softness, color, and presence in nature enabled it to be easily mined and fashioned into primitive utensils, tools, and weapons. Five thousand years ago, man learned to alloy copper with tin, producing bronze and giving rise to a new age.
By the mid-1800s, Britain, with superior smelting technology, controlled more than three-quarters of the world copper trade. As the proportion of metal to waste in rock declined, it became economical to position smelters and refiners adjacent to mining sites and ship the final product directly to market. The discovery in the 19th century of major copper deposits in North America, Chile, and Australia challenged England's preeminent position. In the early 20th century, new mining and smelting techniques were developed in the United States which made it possible to process lower-grade ores, resulting in a dramatic global expansion of the copper market.
Schwab customers can trade copper futures and options at the COMEX Division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Copper futures, COMEX Division of New York Mercantile Exchange, symbol HG. Minimum Tick Size: 0.0005 cents per pound, worth $12.50 per contract.
Electronic trading is conducted from 6:00 p.m. U.S. ET until 5:00 p.m. U.S. ET via the CME Globex® trading platform, Sunday through Friday.
There are copper futures contracts with expirations all twelve months of the year.