A view of central Beijing
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Renita Jablonski: The World Copper Conference wraps up today in Chile. It's the largest gathering of its kind in the world. Copper prices are up 30 percent since the new year -- that's the biggest quarterly gain since 2006. From the Americas Desk at WLRN, Marketplace's Dan Grech reports.

Dan Grech: The price of copper, like that of crude oil, has been on a roller coaster of late. A record high in July, then a sharp fall, now a modest rebound.

Analysts say copper prices have rallied largely because China, the world's biggest buyer, imported a record amount in February. China needs copper for enormous infrastructure projects it's initiated to help it weather the global slowdown.

George Pruitt is research director at the Futures Truth Company:

George Pruitt: Usually the commodities are a good weather vane to tell you what's going to happen in the economy.

Pruitt says copper is a raw ingredient for any economic recovery because it's critical to so many industries.

Pruitt: So I think we're starting to see a glimmer of hope that this recession has finally bottomed out. We've had a nice little pop in the prices -- let's just hope it continues.

Other analysts say until the demand for copper rises in the U.S. and Europe, the light at the end of the tunnel remains beyond the bend.

I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.