Copper consumers must feel giddy from this year’s roller coaster ride. Trying to predict when to buy has been a nightmare. Now we have a new question: What will the red metal do in 2008? The International Copper Group reports that the main engine of demand, China, will become a net exporter of metal in 2008 as new domestic production capacity comes on stream, reversing a significant demand for finished metal to one of additional supply to the world market. Following government efforts to cool the economy with tighter credit controls and the removal of export rebates, demand in China is forecast to rise by between five to seven percent next year, slowing from this year’s breathtaking 12 percent.
Copper inventories on the London Metal Exchange have increased 30 percent since the credit crunch hit the U.S. market in September, with the U.S. housing market showing no end to its 18 month decline. A similar story is unfolding in Europe. Copper demand is forecast to slow in these two important markets. The U.S. consumes 13 percent of world copper while Europe consumes a little less, but combined, they nearly equal China’s 20-30 percent. So if American and European economies continue to slow — and China becomes a net exporter — it won’t even take a recession to further depress copper prices. No wonder analysts are estimating $2.50/lb. for early next year, levels not seen since the beginning of 2007. The message for buyers is to keep price deals of short duration and monitor the markets to buy on dips. Volatility has been a feature of the market for the entire year, and we can expect that to continue in 2008. Most important of all, follow this blog for our thoughts on the market as the newest year unfolds!