Dollar a Pound Copper Likely Scenario?

Yesterday a colleague phoned me to say that he caught an interesting program on CNBC in which David Threlkeld a metals trader at Resolved Inc said, “We’re going to see a catastrophe in the market. The catastrophe he referred to is copper. Threlkeld argues that China has stockpiled copper to the tune of two million tons and that at some point, “China will release the stockpile onto the market. The CNBC articles goes on to say that another factor compounding the issue involves the fact that speculators have already bid up the price of copper having previously bet on a global recovery. The theory first started floating on the net about a week ago in this Business Week article. As observers of metals markets, we thought the article worthy of discussion. After all, few if any analysts have called for $1/lb copper for 2010. Here is the CNBC Fast Money clip:

But first, let’s review some of the other comments made by Threlkeld. According to the Business Week article, 90% of copper buying has come from speculators. Threlkeld explains as follows, “Whether they are exchange-traded fund speculators or China pig farmer speculators it doesn’t really matter, because that buying is going to come back to the market, Threlkeld also points to interest rates specifically that the $1/lb forecast “may be driven by higher interest rates in China or the US. Last, the $1/lb scenario Threlkeld looks at the inverse relationship between supply increasing and demand decreasing, “What we have now is we have a unique situation, whereby we have a surplus and production has gone up and consumption has gone down.

So let’s take a look at some of those comments. For sure, stocks have increased but we’d suggest that they have not reached historically high levels. China accounts for a large portion of overall copper demand (over 35% of global copper demand). We also think China stimulus programs around the power grid and rail projects will continue to support demand. True ETF and speculative activity could cause investors to dump shares/holdings if prices did collapse, perhaps further exacerbating a drop in copper prices.   On the other hand, although China imports fell significantly in January from February (suggesting demand has fallen) they still haven’t hit anywhere near their 2008 lows. In addition, low scrap imports also suggest that China lacks direct-melt feed resulting in supply constraints that could increase demand for refined metal.

What can we conclude? It likely depends upon what theory you buy into and what road signs you watch to draw your conclusions.

If you’d like to learn more about the key road signs for copper, sign up here to be notified when our 2010 Copper Price Perspective will be available (February) and mark “copper on the web form.

–Lisa Reisman


No Comments

  • I am gravely concerned that anyone is putting stock in David Threlkeld. This is a guy who is running a business out of his home and is likely the stupidest human being I have ever met. He apparently got lucky 14 years ago. But, he is as dumb as a box of rocks and no one should listen to him.

  • So, it is October 18th and copper is hovering around $3.50 per pound. With just 2.5 months remaining in 2010 I highly doubt we will see David’s prediction of $1/lb copper. What a complete waste of my time…thanks nimrod


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top