Base Metals

Copper Prices Up and Down on Mixed Fortunes for Miners

Base Metals
Copper Investing

Copper prices had an eventful last week of April, hitting a one-month high before descending to a four-week low later on.

Copper had an eventful last week of April, hitting a one-month high before descending to a four-week low on Tuesday (May 1).

Near the end of April, copper hit its highest in a month at US$6,986 a tonne on the London Metal Exchange, but fell to US$6,710 on Tuesday (May 1), its lowest price since April 4. The red metal closed at US$6,745 on Tuesday, down 0.9 percent.

Analysts say that the copper price decline was due to concerns about demand from China, where traditionally demand picks up heading into the second quarter of the year.

“We think construction activity is going to be more subdued this year because of the curbs on lending by the Chinese government to control the property market bubble,” said Caroline Bain of Capital Economics.

Another factor impacting prices was a stronger US dollar in the lead up to a US Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting on interest rates. A decision is due to be announced on Wednesday (May 2).

According to FocusEconomics‘ latest report, copper prices are likely to bump along below the US$7,000 level this year, after performing ahead of fundamentals at the end of 2017.

Supply is expected to rise slightly on new projects and the resumption of operations in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), although longer-term copper output in the DRC could be negatively affected by a recently revised mining law.

That said, a mild slowdown in Chinese demand is also likely due to tighter credit conditions, although global demand should be solid overall.

Looking beyond 2018, prices look set to trend upwards on greater demand for infrastructure, electric vehicles and renewable energy. China accounts for almost half of global demand for copper, and was estimated last year as consuming around 24 million tonnes in construction projects.

Copper production has had mixed news this week, with Southern Copper (NYSE:SCCO) announcing that a legal injunction blocking the Tia Maria copper asset in Chile from reopening has been resolved, allowing the US$1.4-billion project to inch closer to reopening.

On the other side of the world, Glencore’s (LSE:GLEN) copper operations in the DRC ground to a halt after freezing orders were placed on them in a spat over royalties with a former partner.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Scott Tibballs, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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