Copper retreats on projected demand slowdown

Copper prices slipped on Tuesday as the market focused on slowing growth and demand around the world, though some price support was provided by low stock levels in warehouses registered with the London Metal Exchange (LME).

Benchmark copper on the was down 1.4% at $7,451 a tonne by 0938 GMT. Prices of the metal used by investors as a gauge of economic health have dropped 30% since hitting a record peak of $10,845 in March.

Citi analysts expect copper to fall to $6,200 a tonne in the next three months, they said in a note, citing a Europe-led recession and the broader demand outlook in the United States and China.

Multi-year high (copper) mine supply growth in 2023 should also eventually become a headwind,” they added.

Stocks of copper in LME-registered warehouses have fallen 8% to 134,400 tonnes since Oct. 13. Cancelled warrants – metal earmarked for delivery – at 57% of the total suggest another 76,400 tonnes is due to leave the system.

Worries about tight supplies on the LME market have created a hefty premium for cash copper over the three-month contract. It was last at $135 a tonne, its highest since last November.

Also in focus are copper stocks in China’s bonded warehouses, having dropped to about 25,000 tonnes from more than 270,000 tonnes in late June.

“The market is tight, evidenced by the low bonded warehouse stocks in China,” said Sucden Financial analyst Geordie Wilkes.

On aluminium, Wilkes said: “Downside pressure persists as China’s aluminium output rises.”

China’s primary aluminium production rose to 3.42 million tonnes in September, up 9.3% from a year earlier, with smelters in a few main regions ramping up output after authorities in the world’s top metal producer relaxed power restrictions.

Aluminium was down 0.7% at $2,167 a tonne, zinc fell 1.6% to $2,910, lead gained 0.4% to $1,896, tin slipped 0.4% to $18,380 and nickel was down 1% at $22,030.

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