Copper: Fitful at 42

The news broke quietly on New Year's Eve. A wire-service report announced that Belgian-controlled Union Minière du Haut-Katanga, which annually mines 314,000 tons of copper in the Congo, was increasing the price of the metal from 380 a pound to 420.

The wire-service reporter had learned of the hike from Union sources in London, but the Union decision had been so sudden and quiet even within the company that executives, asked for corroboration over the weekend, denied any knowledge of it. The denial made no difference. Whether because it wished to re-emphasize its...

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