For the first time in nine years, copper grew above $9,000 a metric ton, bringing another step closer to an all-time high reached in 2011, as investors bet that the tightness of supply will increase as the world recovers from the pandemic.
In the midst of a large rally in commodities from iron ore to nickel, copper is surging, while oil has gained more than 20% this year. Since a nadir in March, the bellwether industrial metal has doubled, fuelled by rapidly tightening physical markets, prospects for rebounding economic growth, and the expectation that a long era of low inflation may end in key economies.
Investors are also piling up copper on the bet that demand will rise in the coming years as governments introduce unprecedented stimulus schemes aimed at renewable energy and electric vehicle infrastructure, requiring large quantities of raw materials.
“The list of bullish factors for copper is extremely long,” Max Layton, head of EMEA commodities research at Citigroup Inc., said by phone from London. “A lot of the most bullish developments are really going to play out in the next few months, and therefore we think it’s going to be sooner rather than later that it gets to $10,000.”
Supply conditions are the tightest in years in some areas of the physical copper market and could come under even more strain as smelters in top customer China face declining profit margins for processing raw ore into refined metal. Copper treatment fees, a measure of refining margins, are the lowest since 2012, at $45.50 a ton. One leading supplier, in a possible blow to customers, is considering cutting production.
For miners, rising prices are a boost, pushing up stock prices and raising the possibility of more blockbuster shareholder returns. China’s top producer, Jiangxi Copper Co., gained as much as 20 percent to the highest level since 2012 in Hong Kong, while on Friday, U.S. producer Freeport-McMoRan Inc. closed at the highest since 2014.