On Thursday, the copper price on the London Metal Exchange reached a four-month high of over US$8,210/t for three-month delivery. Although still well short of the US$9,500/t prices achieved in the middle of last year, the metal has been boosted this week by news that the International Monetary Fund is seeking to raise money to tackle the eurozone debt crisis, and by stronger-than-expected economic data from China.
China’s GDP in the quarter to end-December grew by an annualised 8.9% (the consensus had been 8.6%). This raised hopes of a ‘soft landing’ for the economy, whereby it continues to grow without concerns over high inflation.
LME stocks of copper are set to fall to their lowest level since mid-2009 after traders requested the delivery of almost 20% of their metal holdings. Cancelled LME warrants also continue to rise, although most traders believe that the metal cancelled is only going to move between warehouses.
In his market newsletter, Ted Arnold noted that “the bulls are very excited, and are talking about US$8,250-8,500/t for three-month metal on LME in the coming days”. He added “the commodity trading advisors (CTAs) and technical funds are all looking to go long on good dips, and there is a general enthusiasm pervading the market”.
Also boosting sentiment was Rio Tinto’s announcement this week that its attributable copper production during the December quarter slumped 26% year-on-year (see p6). Although in line with guidance, the company’s full-year production of 519,700t was down 158,400t. This reflects strikes at Escondida and Grasberg, and declining ore grades.
Nevertheless, Mr Arnold notes “the Chinese remain unenthusiastic about copper at these prices, and as their New Year celebrations are about to begin, they will remain side-lined for at least another week”.