Copper MMI: Copper Prices Build on Previous Months’ Gains

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In December, the Copper Monthly Metals Index (MMI) rose three points, returning to October 2018 levels. Higher LME copper prices drove the index. The current Copper MMI stands at 77 points.

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Contrary to other base metals, LME copper prices increased in November.

LME copper prices have maintained momentum that started back in September. LME copper prices still trade over the $6,000/mt level, which served as a stiff resistance level for most of 2017. Prices over this level indicate a bullish copper market, while prices below that level signal a more bearish trend. Trading volume remains heavier on the buys, which also supports prices.

LME Copper prices. Source: MetalMiner analysis of Fastmarkets

LME copper prices, however, have fallen so far in December. However, this slight decrease does not seem to be relevant.

Buying organizations can expect LME copper price momentum to remain strong in the short term.

Global Copper Outlook

Chile, the world’s top copper producer, reported a 7.3% increase in copper output in the January- September time frame compared with the same period in 2017, boosted by a sharp increase from BHP’s Escondida copper mine.

The Escondida mine reached 950,000 tons of copper output, 57.8% higher from the same period in 2017 (due to the 40-day strike last year).

Meanwhile, Codelco’s production came in at  1.29 million tons, down 2% from last year. The Collahuasi mine, owned by Anglo American Plc and Glencore Plc, currently the second-largest mine in the country, reached 401,8000 tons of copper output during this period, 5.8% higher than last year.

Delegates at the Asia Copper Conference in Shanghai forecasted a strong and healthy outlook for copper demand in the mid- to long term. According to Jerry Jiao, vice president of China Minmetals Corp., the renewable energy revolution will boost copper demand in the future, with an expected increase of 2.4 million tons by 2030. That demand, together with the increase of the Chinese car fleet replaced by 20% electric vehicles by 2030 will result in 2.8 million tons of incremental copper demand (based on 60 kilogram per car and 47 million cars in the country, as reported by Reuters).

Current copper Chinese demand goes toward air conditioning, automobiles (for which demand has weakened) and infrastructure investment. In fact, copper used for infrastructure investment will serve as the biggest contributor to Chinese copper demand in 2019.

Indian copper demand will likely double by 2026, due to increasing demand in power, auto and consumer sectors. Demand in the country could reach 1.433 million tons by 2026 from 650,000 tons in 2018. Different projects have boosted investments, but this projection does not include copper usage in electric vehicles, which would increase demand up to 2.5 million tons.

Indian smelter capability utilization came in at 80%, or 843,000 tons of refined copper versus the projected 642,000 tons of projected demand. However, the recent shutdown of Vedanta (400,000 tons per year) may lower the refined copper number in 2018.

Chinese Scrap Copper

LME copper prices and Chinese copper scrap prices tend to follow the same trend. Both increased this month.

However, the pace of the increases seems to differ.

Chinese scrap prices increased softly, while LME copper prices showed stronger momentum.

Source: MetalMiner data from MetalMiner IndX(™)

The spread has become wider again. The wider the spread, the higher the copper scrap consumption, and therefore, the price.

What This Means for Industrial Buyers

LME copper prices increased this month, following a two-month uptrend. Buying organizations will want to understand how to react to the latest copper price movements.

Adapting the right buying strategy is crucial to reducing risks. Only the MetalMiner monthly outlooks provide a continually updated snapshot of the market from which buying organizations can determine when and how much to buy of the underlying metal.

For more information on how to mitigate price risk year-round, request a free trial to our Monthly Metal Buying Outlook.

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Actual Copper Prices and Trends

In November, most of the prices comprising the Copper MMI basket rose.

LME copper increased by 4.48% this month. Indian copper prices rose by 6.82%, while Chinese primary copper prices jumped 3.92%.

Prices of U.S. copper producer grades 110 and 122 increased by 4.08%. Meanwhile, the price of U.S. copper producer grade 102 rose 3.86%, up to $3.76/pound.

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