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Monthly Copper Bulletin-JAN16


Copper hit a fresh seven-year low of $4318 in Jan before recovering over the 2nd half. Meanwhile, various producers have been tallying up production totals for 2015 and giving guidance for 2016 and beyond. Judging the projections, a majority seem oblivious to the depressed pricing environment. For starters, Chile said it produced 5.79 mln tons of copper last year, a .2% increase from 2014. Output is expected to be flat this year before rising yet again in 2017, this time by about 3.1%. Peruvian output is expected to be up by a more dramatic 65% this year, as 10,000 tons of Las Bambas copper concs shipped out last month, the first installment of an expected 450,000 ton roll-out.

Neither of these trends is all that encouraging given that Chinese demand is off the boil, at least judging from the sluggish macro data and from what our physical customers are telling us. Surprisingly, this is not evident in the Chinese import data, which instead shows that refined copper intake hitting a record 3.68 mln tons last year, up 2.5% from 2014 levels. (Copper conc imports were also up 12.3% y-on-y).

According to INTL’s last report it suspects this metal is coming in more so on account of arb trading, stockpiling schemes or somewhat modified financing programs, as opposed to accommodating local demand. (Lower expected Chinese grid spending is theoretically another negative for this year, but they would not read too much into this, as even a lower dollar grid spend will buy more copper this year than it did a year ago). In terms of it outlook, they see a relatively steady $4450-$4750 trading range in Feb, as further dollar weakness will offer an element of support, as should the current Freeport-Indonesia dispute. Furthermore, an absence of Chinese traders on account of the NY break should prevent major moves in either direction.

London copper edged down on Monday after the dollar firmed following a mixed U.S. jobs report, with the start of a week-long holiday in China draining liquidity from the market.

U.S. employment gains slowed more than expected in January as the boost to hiring from unseasonably mild weather faded, but rising wages and an unemployment rate at an eight-year low suggested the labour market recovery remains firm.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange had slipped 0.5 percent to $4,607 a tonne by 1341 GMT, extending 1.2-percent losses from the previous session. Prices on Thursday hit a one-month high at $4,720 a tonne.

The Shanghai Futures Exchange is closed for the Lunar New Year holiday and will reopen Monday Feb. 15.

Global markets have been in turmoil since the start of the year, with stocks and commodities prices reeling, eroding inflation and making central banks increasingly dovish - a trend that could continue with more weak economic data.

China's January exports may have fallen for a seventh month with factories still battling falling prices, but an expected jump in bank lending may underscore the government's bid to put a floor under the slowing economy. (Full Story)

Hedge funds and money managers cut a bearish position in copper to the lowest since early November, in the week to Feb. 2, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data showed on Friday.


Monthly Copper Bulletin-DECEMBER15


Copper ended down 25% lower in 2015 on account of declining Chinese demand, exacerbated by few signs of producer cutbacks. Granted, Chinese refined imports held up quite well in 2015 and will likely finish the year essentially unchanged, but the strong inflows do not tally up with what macro indicators are telling us. All this suggests that imported copper may either be getting stored, arbitraged, or perhaps surreptitiously financed in dark corners of China’s shadow banking system.

In addition, the fact that nine Chinese smelters said last month that they will cut refined output by as much as 550,000 tons in Q1 tells us that demand may not be as great as the import figures suggest. Moreover, we don’t know whether the cuts will be reinstated if prices recover. Also, with treatment charges still attractive, other nonparticipating smelters could pick up the slack. More troubling, is that we are not seeing any cuts from Chile, responsible for 30% of global copper supply.


Here, refined output is expected to hold steady this year and the latest November numbers even show a y-o-y gain of almost 2%. Out of Peru, the government expects output to rise 65.5% in 2016 to about 2.5 million tons after Las Bambas starts producing next month. Meanwhile, Cochilco sees global mine production rising by 3.2% in 2015, while the ICSG is more upbeat, seeing a 4.2% gain, outpacing 2016 consumption growth, which it expects to remain essentially flat.

Copper prices tumbled  in this session, hitting their lowest in nearly seven years, as plunging China equities highlighted the country's economic problems and reinforced concern about demand for industrial metals. Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange was down 2.9 percent at $4,486 a tonne at 1505 GMT. The metal, used in power and construction, had earlier touched $4,430, its lowest since May 2009.

China's stock markets were suspended for the day less than half an hour after opening as a new circuit-breaking mechanism was tripped for a second time this week. Shanghai stocks slid 7.3 percent to trigger the halt, a repeat of Monday's losses. "Chinese equities, some of the economic data this week have spooked the market. China is the dominant consumer of pretty much every commodity," said Investec analyst Marc Elliot.

Data published this week showed China's manufacturing sector shrank for the 10th month running in December, while activity in services fell to a 17-month low.

China's central bank allowed the yuan to fall to its lowest level against the dollar since March 2011, a sign analysts said was an acknowledgement of weak growth.

"The Chinese stock market still has much more room to fall considering that for all the weakness we saw in the Chinese economy last year, the general Shanghai stock market was still up 9 percent last year," INTL FCStone's Edward Meir said in a note.

Some support for copper could come from China's state stockpiling agency, the State Reserve Bureau, which is expected to start buying domestic copper supply this month after local smelters urged it to intervene, industry sources said.


Monthly Copper Bulletin-NOVEMBER15


Copper lost substantial ground in November, off some $600/ton and sinking to a 6-year low in the process, although there has been a degree of stabilization setting over the last few days on account of dollar weakness.

The complex was weighed down earlier in the month by fund selling, a stronger dollar, weaker Chinese demand, a steep Chilean cut in refined premiums (to $98 from $133) and skepticism about whether announced cuts so far are enough to tighten the supply/demand balance going into 2016. Since then, there have been additional cuts announced, including by nine Chinese producers last week wherein 350,000 tons of output is supposed to come off in 2016. In a 20 mln ton market, this is not significant and neither are we certain that these cuts will not reappear if prices rebound.

More significant, is what Chile will do – or not do. At CESCO-Asia, a Codelco executive said his company was not contemplating cuts, but was instead focused on lowering costs. Since then, the official line has changed, with the company now saying that cuts are under consideration should prices continue to deteriorate, which it suspects they will. In the meantime, latest Chilean monthly production numbers for October has output at 500,000 tons, up 1% from a year ago, so we have yet to see reductions start. More broadly, the ICSG sees overall mine output growing by 1.2% this year and by a more substantial 4.2% next year. This is outpacing 2016 consumption, which it thinks will remain essentially flat going into 2016.

Copper prices slipped on Monday as worries about weak demand growth in top consumer China and expectations of surplus metal were reinforced by a strong dollar.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange was untraded in official rings but bid 0.4 percent lower at $4,595 a tonne. A higher dollar makes commodities more expensive for non-U.S. firms, a relationship used by funds to trade copper.

Hedge funds and money managers added to their net short position in COMEX copper contracts in the shortened holiday week to Dec. 1, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data showed on Friday. The managed net short position is the biggest net short since April 2013.

China accounts for nearly half of global copper consumption estimated at about 23 million tonnes this year. Analysts estimate demand growth for copper in China has slowed this year to around 2.5 percent from more than 7 percent last year.

"The market is focused on the demand side. We will have better clues of what is going on with Chinese data later this week," SP Angel analyst Sergey Raevskiy said. "Producers need to cut more to try to balance the market, but that isn't happening." China's trade data is due on Tuesday and investment and industrial production numbers for November are due on Saturday.

U.S. employment increased at a healthy pace in November, in another sign of the economy's resilience, and will most likely be followed by the first Federal Reserve interest rate rise in a decade later this month. 


Monthly Copper Bulletin-OCTOBER15



Copper had a quiet month, with its range even more compressed than in September. Prices fluctuated between $5000-$5350 in October. The sideways drift was attributable to two variables, the first being the strength in the dollar caused in large part on renewed conviction (emerging last week) that the Fed will indeed raise rates before year-end. The second has to do with a stream of weak macro numbers coming out of China.

Although LME stocks have been dropping (off by some 50,000 tons in October), an open arb has prompted refined copper imports to rise sharply in September (up 22% y-on-y), replenishing Shanghai inventories to the tune of 30,000 tons in October.

Moving to the supply side, there is little evidence that Chilean production is retracing meaningfully in light of weaker Chinese demand; Cochilco reported last week that output is forecast to come in at 5.68 million tons in 2015, down only 1.2% y-on-y before it resumes its uptrend in 2016. For its part, the ICSG sees the refined market as being in an 8,000-ton surplus (as of July) and in a 10,000 ton excess year-to-date.

Copper prices rose 1 percent on Wednesday, supported by bets that demand in top consumer China is set to improve thanks to government stimulus, and by news that mining giant Glencore will deepen cuts in its output of the metal.

Glencore said it expects to cut 455,000 tonnes of copper output by the end of 2017. In September, it suspended copper output at two mines in Africa, removing 400,000 tonnes of cathode from the market.

In China, equities posted their biggest daily gain in seven weeks, after President Xi Jinping made economy-friendly comments and the government unveiled proposals for a five-year financial market reform plan.

"We're already seeing tentative signs that things will pick up (in China) but the market is on hold waiting for data next week on China's trade, which will give an indication on whether the strong (September) figures will be sustained," said Caroline Baine, senior commodities economist at Capital Economics.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange climbed 1.1 percent to $5,213 a tonne by 1233 GMT. The price hit the weakest in a month at $5,086.50 on Monday, but has held above a six-year low of $4,855 reached in late August.

Elsewhere, the dollar inched towards 2-1/2-month highs against a basket of currencies, capping gains in dollar-priced metals by making them costlier for non-U.S. investors. The dollar is being buoyed by returning expectations of a rise in U.S. interest rates and better growth globally, with markets awaiting Friday's U.S. non-farm payrolls report for more clues on the outlook.


Monthly Copper Bulletin-AUGUST15


Copper made fresh lows in August, breaking the psychologically important $5,000 mark and getting to a low of $4855 at one point. However, the extent of the decline was not as steep as what we saw in July, although this is of little consolation to producers. Basically, China-related concerns are weighing on prices, as in addition to the exogenous shocks of imploding equity markets and a devalued currency, there are serious concerns about Chinese end-user demand. Estimates we are seeing on the Chinese rate of growth in copper demand are in the low single digits and some are even speculating about negative numbers when 2015 is finally put to bed.

Whatever the case, producers are starting to respond. In this regard, Freeport McMoran said last month that it would shut one of its mines in Arizona and reduce output at two others as well,while also slashing capital spending. The DRC warned about cost-cutting by mining companies, while Poland's KGHM said it would postpone or suspend some of its projects. For its part, Codelco said it is reworking a plan to expand its key Andina mine due to falling prices and protests about the project’s impact on the environment, but surprisingly, Chilean production has remained virtually on track for much of the year. In this regard, although July output was off 2.5% vs. a year ago (mainly due to strikes), output for the first seven months of the year is still up some 1.7% from a year earlier.

In other news, the ICSG sees copper in a 4,000-ton surplus (through May) compared to a 537,000-ton deficit in 2014. For its part, Reuters-GFMS sees the copper market to be in a 477,000 surplus this year, a staggering number -- and quite a difference.

Today copper scaled a seven-week high on expectations of tighter supplies, though the rally could be short-lived without improvements in demand from top consumer China or more substantial production cuts. Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange traded at $5,351 a tonne in official rings, from $5,345 at the close on Tuesday. The metal used in power and construction had risen earlier to $5,434.50.

A gain of about 5 percent so far this week was triggered by London-listed mining giant Glencore's plan to suspend 400,000 tonnes of copper output from Africa. "It's mostly short-covering; some of these guys did not expect such a move to cut copper output," said Carsten Menke, commodities research analyst at Julius Baer. "It's price supportive, but the cut does not mean a market deficit. The recovery will probably run out of steam."

Price pressure is still being exerted by weak economic and demand growth in China, which accounts for about half of global consumption, and by the U.S. dollar. A stronger dollar makes commodities more expensive for non U.S. firms.

The U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to keep interest rates steady at its Sept. 16-17 meeting, but many observers think it will tighten policy this year, which could reinforce dollar strength.

Over the next couple of weeks the market will discover how China's economy fared in August, with the release of a data including industrial production and investment figures. "We believe the multi-year slowdown in China continues and, given the lack of an immediate catalyst that could bring the entrenched bear market to an end for many raw materials, commodities including copper and iron ore should keep falling next year," Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a note.

The bank said there is a risk that copper could hit $4,000 a tonne the final quarter of next year, though it added that such a decline is likely to prompt accelerated mine closures that should ultimately realign supply with demand. 


Monthly Copper Bulletin-JULY15


Copper lost ground in July, trading to $5164-$5825 range and taking out the 2015 low of $5340 in the process. The monthly downturn was the weakest showing since January and the second-worst monthly drop since 2012. We saw the first selloff set in from July 6-8 after prices lost roughly $500/ton during this period, dropping in sympathy with weaker Chinese equity markets.
We suspect funds scrambled to raise cash, while others looked to short commodities given that the selling in equities became more restrictive. A rally set in on July 9th and prices recovered somewhat for the next week or so, only to lose ground going into month end.

We attribute the latest selloff to a stronger dollar, fund selling and a market that still remains well supplied. On the latter score, Cochilco now expects Chile to produce 5.88 mln tons of copper in 2015, lower than its April estimate, but still up from 5.78 mln produced last year.

In addition, local Chinese production is growing and we suspect it is displacing Chilean imports. Indeed, Chinese refined imports declined 11% y-on-y to 1.68 million tons, but ore imports have risen 11% over this same period, fueling an equivalent percentage increase in local supply y-t-d, thus eating into Chile’s market share.

In other news, the ICSG sees copper in a 62,000-ton surplus (through April) compared to a 436,000-ton deficit during the same period in 2014. Price-wise, Cochilco is calling for an average copper price of $6106 this year before falling to $5950 in 2016. The latest Reuters poll has the numbers in opposite order, with an average of $5950 projected for 2015 year and $6250 for 2016.

Copper and other base metals slipped on Wednesday as the dollar strengthened on speculation that the United States was closer to hiking interest rates. Losses were held in check, however, after data showed activity in the services sector of China, the world's top metals consumer, expanded in July at its fastest pace in 11 months.

Markets were pressured by the dollar hitting a 3-1/2 month peak against a basket of currencies on Wednesday after a voting member of the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy-setting committee expressed support for an interest rate hike in September. A stronger dollar makes commodities priced in the U.S. currency more expensive to buyers using other currencies.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange dropped 0.3 percent to $5,205 a tonne in official trading, after closing little changed in the previous session but within reach of Monday's six-year lows at $5,142 a tonne.

Despite Wednesday's stronger data on Chinese services, slowing factory growth is still weighing on metals markets.

"Sentiment here among Chinese investors is quite bearish at the moment, it's hard to see any sustainable rebound from here," said analyst Judy Zhu of Standard Chartered in Shanghai. 



Monthly Copper Bulletin-JUNE15


Copper sank to a three-month low of $5642 at one point in June and although it staged a bit of a bounce during the last two weeks of the month, the complex still closed down. However, July has gotten off to a much nastier start, with prices off some 3% so far in the month, almost equaling June’s entire decline. We suspect that the particular weakness we are seeing in copper is partly on account of the massive selloff going on in the Chinese stock market, as this is presumably forcing many funds to shore up cash positions in order to either meet equity margins or perhaps average down further on some beaten down names. Things are not being helped on the copper supply side either. In this regard, May Chilean copper production rose 2.1% from a year earlier and is up by the same amount on a year-to-date basis. Local Chinese production continues to climb as well--up some 10% year-to-date. The comfortable supply situation stands in stark contrast to declining Chinese refined import demand -- off some 12.4% through May of this year, while overall Chinese refined copper demand is estimated to grow by only 5% in 2015.

Copper prices rose in this session, extending a rebound from a six-year low hit in the previous session, as Beijing managed to halt panic selling in Chinese equities, though underlying worries about Chinese growth persisted.

Chinese stocks rallied 6 percent after the securities regulator banned selling by shareholders with large stakes in listed companies; Beijing's most drastic step yet to stem a sell-off that has roiled financial markets.

European bourses and bonds made early gains as strong export figures from Germany and hopes that Greece's debt negotiations will succeed complemented the rebound in Asia and commodity markets, but sentiment towards copper remained cautious.

"We could see continued weakness in the coming weeks, with the Greek situation unresolved and concerns regarding growth from China, (though) there's a limit to how low copper can go because (global) growth will strengthen going into next year," Danske Bank analyst Jens Pederson said.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange climbed 1.9 percent to $5,595 a tonne in official trading. It had gained 3.4 percent in the previous session, having sunk at one point to its weakest since July 2009 at $5,240.

Helping copper was a weaker outlook for the dollar after the Federal Reserve signalled on Wednesday that it might be too soon to raise interest rates. A weaker dollar makes dollar-priced metals cheaper for non-U.S. investors. The dollar recovered its poise versus the euro, however, with attention glued to proposals expected from Athens for a deal to keep Greece and its banks afloat.


Monthly Copper Bulletin-MAY15


Copper built on the late-April gains to move higher during May, but then topped out at high levels, trading between $6300-$6500 during the first half of the month. Prices then started to sell off during the second half, getting to a low of $6075 at one point last week. Some experts frankly think that the $1200/ton run up from the mid-January low of $5300 to the May high of $6500 was "too much, too fast" for copper and that a retrenchment towards the mean was overdue. Certainly, the fundamentals have not warranted such a spirited advance. For one thing, Chinese demand remains weak and although the latest trade numbers show April imports up over March, they are still down some 15% cumulatively vs. the year before. Moreover, much of this step-up in imports may have come about on expectations of stronger demand that may or may not materialize going forward, which explains why analysts are now penciling in a drop for May imports. The supply side is also an issue; latest numbers out of Chile show March exports fell a sizable 34.3% year-on-year, but mine production is down by only 1.7% y-on-y, as lower output from Collahuasi has been offset by increased output from BHP’s Escondida facility.

London copper fell below $6,000 a tonne to a six-week low on last Thursday, hurt by bleak prospects for near-term growth in demand and ample supply.

The seasonally strongest quarter for copper demand in top consumer China is passing its peak with factories eyeing a summer production slowdown, leading to expectations for lower metal consumption in the months ahead. "For copper, like iron ore, expectations are that demand will slow through summer. We don't see a major uplift from current levels," said analyst of UBS.

Still, evidence emerged this week that China's easing measures are providing some support to its economy, with recovery in housing sales and the service sector, which should underpin a demand revival for copper later in the year. China's property market is a key consumer of copper.

London Metal Exchange copper fell 1 percent to $5,954 a tonne, near the day's low of $5,951 - its weakest since April 24. Support was seen around the $5,930 mark, the 100-day moving average. In Shanghai, copper prices fell 0.8 percent to 43,400 yuan ($6,999.44) a tonne.

China looks likely to target annual growth of about 7 percent in its next five-year plan so it can hit ambitious 2020 goals, raising concerns that politics could trump a commitment to disruptive reforms entailing slower but more sustainable growth.

For now, one of the hurdles facing industrial companies in China is a dearth of credit, with banks, burnt by last year's commodity financing scandal, reconsidering their businesses. U.S. bank Citigroup Inc C.N said it currently has no metals financing clients in China and was reviewing the future of the business.

Elsewhere, Europe has lost some growth momentum and bond market volatility is here to stay, the European Central Bank said, pledging to see through its money printing scheme until its job of lifting the economy is done.

Traders are also eyeing the dollar. A stronger dollar makes commodities priced in the greenback more expensive for buyers holding other currencies. Exchange strategists polled by Reuters suggest the dollar rally will regain momentum from next month, although its strength will depend on economic data and the timing of a Federal Reserve interest rate hike.


Monthly Copper Bulletin-APRIL15


Copper did not do much in April, fluctuating within a $200 band for most of the month, but then exploded over the last few days to close at over $6400, a five-month high. The move was devoid of any news, but largely driven by fund buying, a weaker dollar and growing expectations of more Chinese stimulus.

At the CESCO conference, miners discussed how much of an impact low prices would have on production, as well as on the expected surplus (estimated to be at a rather hefty 365,000 tons by the ICSG). Antofagasta’s CEO said he saw the surplus disappearing, as production retrenches, but other miners are keeping up, benefitting from new capex spending and extension projects designed to boost output. In fact, Cochilco has not lowered its 2015 Chilean production forecast much at all, with its latest number at 5.94 million, only a shade lower than its previous 6.0 mln ton estimate. And although Chilean March output fell steeply on account of rains, output in Q1 is still 3.4% ahead of last year.

On the demand side, China’s Antaike cut copper demand growth to 5.7% from 6.4% for this year, although it said stimulus measures could help boost offtake in the 2nd half of 2015. Meanwhile, Chinese imports of refined metal jumped to 306,000 tons, but Q1 imports are still down 18% y-on-y, perhaps because we are seeing surging local Chinese production, up almost 10% y-o-y. The latest Reuters consensus has copper trading at $6125 in 2015 and at $6528 in 2016, with respective surpluses at 105,000 and 164,000 respectively.

London copper slipped on Friday on a stronger dollar and worries over demand in top metals consumer China after weaker than expected trade data, with an upcoming U.S. jobs report also in focus.

China's exports fell 6.4 percent in April from a year earlier in dollar-denominated terms, missing market expectations, while imports tumbled 16.2 percent, burnishing the case for stronger stimulus in the world's largest metals user. "We're keeping an eye on China data, and expecting more stimulus announcements ... such as RRR (Reserve Ratio Requirement) cuts. It's quite possible that they will help support commodity prices in the near term," said analyst James Glenn of National Australia Bank in Melbourne.

The U.S. dollar recovered against the euro after German Bund yields retreated from their 2015 highs and optimism grew that the April U.S. labour report would show strength after upbeat data on weekly jobless claims. A stronger dollar erodes purchasing power for buyers of commodities who pay with other currencies.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was steady at $6,394 a tonne by 0634 GMT, closing flat in the previous session and eyeing an unchanged end to the week. But prices on Tuesday struck their highest for the year at $6,481 a tonne as markets returned from a long weekend and as a weaker dollar stimulated buying.

China's imports of copper rose 4.9 percent from a month ago to 430,000 tonnes in April, while exports of aluminium and semi-manufactured aluminium products jumped by a quarter to 430,000 tonnes.


Monthly Copper Bulletin-MARCH15


Copper did not do much for the first two weeks in March, but prices took off around the time of the Fed meeting when the dollar was finally knocked off its perch. The rally trapped a number of shorts, sending prices to a high of $6300/ton at one point. Reports of torrential rains in Chile did not help matters either.

Over the last several days, however, we have seen a slight retrenchment and suspect that we likely will remain range-bound over the course of April. Some investors think that the roughly $1000 ascent from a low of $5300 back in late February to $6300 is somewhat overdone given that the fundamentals of the market have not changed all that much.

In this regard, we are still not seeing any noticeable cut-back in Chilean production, which is up by 6.1% over the Jan-Feb 2014 period. Elsewhere, China’s refined production continues to rise – up 15.8% year-to-date through February and does not bode well for higher refined Chilean imports going forward. On the demand side, Chinese copper imports have fallen by 24% year-to-date in February and conc imports are also off. CRU expects overall 2015 Chinese copper demand growth to come in at a very modest 4%, down from 5.5% in 2014. Meanwhile, copper stockpiles held in Shanghai have doubled since the start of the year and LME stocks are up by a similar amount. All this does not make the case for a tight market, which is why investors see prices trading somewhere between $5700-$6300 in April, with most of the upside move being currency-induced.

Benchmark LME copper fell 0.6 percent to $6,030 a tonne in official rings today after a 1.4 percent gain in the previous session.

Physical prices for spot copper on China's domestic market have also flipped to a premium against front-month ShFE prices this past week, another sign of brightening demand.

German industrial orders unexpectedly dropped in February, partly because companies got fewer major contracts, after bookings already plunged in January, suggesting manufacturers had a subdued start to 2015 in Europe's largest economy.



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