Bulletins

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2013-November

MARKET COMMENTARY
 

Copper prices on the LME fell 2.5% last month as momentum traders (mainly money managers and hedge funds) increased their bearish positions. However, fundamentals have been supportive throughout the last month because of which prices did not continue below $7,000.

Appetite for refined copper was strong as inventories at LME warehouses fell throughout November. At Shanghai, inventories fell last month by more than 16%. This is astonishing since November is usually a time of re-stocking, implying mounting inventories. At Shanghai-bonded warehouses, inventories are at the lowest since June 2012. From August to October, overall copper imports to China, the world’s largest consumer of the red metal, have been very strong, coming above 1.2 million tons. The November figure is expected to come above 470,000 tons.

On mainland China, demand for copper has been strong as borrowers use copper inventories as collateral for short-term financing. The liquidity squeeze in the interbank money markets in October and June prompted investors to use copper for financing. Demand for copper should also get a boost in December because of seasonal re-stocking.

Cash-3 month forwards, a gauge of physical tightness, has been high, implying a shortage of refined metal in the spot market. It is currently at -$0.75 compared to -$30 at the start of October. Chinese importers of refined copper are confident about demand in the first quarter of 2014; hence, it makes sense for them to have agreed to pay a premium of $131 a ton to Codelco (the world’s largest copper miner) in order to secure term shipments. The Premium has risen 41% y-o-y.

Copper has whipsawed in the past month but was able to stay above $7,000 due to a shortage of refined metal in the physical market. Data from the U.S. were quite encouraging, reinforcing expectations that the U.S. central bank might reduce the size of its bond-buying program especially since it mentioned in its last minutes that it would be looking to “taper” in the next few meets.

Copper rose on Friday, underpinned by tightening near-term supply but gains were capped ahead of U.S. jobs data that could signal an imminent scaling back in U.S. stimulus. This week markets have been nervous about an increased risk of tapering, after a string of U.S. data came in above forecasts, including numbers for U.S. private employers, factory output and GDP.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was $7,112 in official rings from a last bid of $7,068 on Thursday, leaving the metal little changed on the week, and still set to post losses of more than 10 percent this year.
"The market is concerned that (the Fed) might taper in December. On the other hand if you look at copper inventories (they) already provide indications that the market has been oversold," said Quantitative Commodity Research consultant Peter Fertig.





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2013-October

MARKET COMMENTARY

Investors had a relatively boring copper market in October, with prices trading roughly between $7090–$7350. Copper’s upside was held in check by the unease generated by the US government shutdown and the debt ceiling standoff; both these issues sapped US confidence readings and cast a pall over short-term growth prospects. On the downside, prices enjoyed support from improving macro data coming out of China, along with the significant surge in September cathode imports, which clocked in at an 18-month high. In addition, there are signs of reasonable demand in the US, Japan and even Europe. However, this pick-up is being more than offset by a backdrop of steadily increasing supply; China itself is expected to produce a record amount of copper in 2013, as high treatment fees encourage smelters to run at full capacity. Elsewhere, there are new mines and expansions evident from Mongolia to Indonesia to Chile, leading to the highest rate of mine supply growth in 10 years. The Reuters consensus pegs the 2013 copper surplus at 201,000 tons and the 2014 surplus at 329,000 tons. Despite the comfortable supply picture, some experts expect more of the same from copper going into November and see a $7080-$7400 trading range in place. Their thought is that the weaker dollar and an accommodative Fed should give the market support, at least until copper’s fundamentals assert themselves more forcefully sometime in Q1 of next year.
Copper ticked higher today for a second session as the dollar weakened and investors kept up hopes of extended U.S. monetary stimulus. Cash copper moved to a premium to forward contracts, putting pressure on a large short-position holder, traders said. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange rose 0.6 percent to a session high of $7,204 a tonne after a small gain on Tuesday.

Copper has held to a range of $7,000 to $7,420 a tonne since early August, supported by steady demand from top consumer China and cheap liquidity in the United States after the Federal Reserve delayed tapering its bond-buying programme. Copper's range has been narrower and narrower, prompting many who following signals generated by charts to forecast that prices are due to break away. "My guess is that when we break out, if we break out, it will be to the downside," said Stephen Briggs, metals strategist at BNP Paribas in London. The 30 percent decline in LME copper stocks since June does not necessarily represent strong demand but more likely that material is moving off-warrant, sometimes within the same warehouses, he added.

In the short term, traders said copper prices could find nearby support if a large short position in November is forced to cover. Cash copper climbed to a $5 premium against the November contract from a $12 discount in mid-October. Reuters' calculations based on LME data show that November's short position could be to hedge as much as 145,000-220,000 tonnes of metal that is not in the LME warehousing system. This figure tallies with a drop in LME copper stocks and may suggest that metal leaving warehouses is going into storage rather than for consumption. LME stocks have dropped by around one-third from mid-June to around 470,000 tonnes, data shows.
The euro rose to a session high versus the dollar after data showed a much bigger-than-expected rise in German industry orders. Orders jumped by 3.3 percent on the month during September, against forecasts for a rise of 0.5 percent. A weaker dollar makes commodities priced in the U.S. currency cheaper for buyers outside the United States.

LME volumes were low, with traders reluctant to take positions ahead of a labour report from the United States and a major policy meeting in China. The United States will release its October labour market report at the end of the week. A sustained recovery in the job market is a precondition for the Fed to begin hauling back its commodity-friendly stimulus.




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2013-September

MARKET COMMENTARY

After witnessing sharp run up in the month of August copper prices dipped lower in the month of September. Copper prices declined as risks of an attack on Syria subsided following a decision by UK lawmakers against military action. Prices also declined on expectations that the Federal Reserve will taper stimulus after the US economy grew faster than expected in 2Q13.

Meanwhile China planned to reduce copper production as some 654,000 tonnes of production may be closed, which is insignificant when compared with the existing idle capacity of more than 7 million tonnes.

LME copper inventories have jumped from the beginning of the year but have declined from peaks in late June. Copper stocks at Chinese bonded warehouses and at the Shanghai Future Exchange (SFE) have fallen considerably over the year, after peaking in February and March.

London copper drifted on Friday, and was set for its biggest weekly loss in three weeks as worries about U.S. fiscal stability tarnished the outlook for demand, while top consumer China remained on holiday.

The shutdown of the U.S. government appeared likely to drag on for another week and possibly longer as lawmakers consumed day three of the shutdown with a stalling game and there was no end in sight until the next crisis hits Washington around Oct.17. And China's manufacturing growth edged up only slightly in September, official data showed this week, adding to concerns about strength of demand.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was little changed at $7,190.75 a tonne by 0906 GMT, after losses from the previous session when it fell 1.2 percent. Copper was on track to lose around 1.5 percent this week in what would be its biggest weekly decline since mid September.
The Shanghai Futures Exchange remained closed for a fourth day on Friday. It will reopen next Tuesday.

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits remained at pre-recession levels last week but growth in the massive U.S. service sector cooled in September as firms took on fewer new workers. September nonfarm payrolls were unlikely to be released today due to the shutdown.

Metals won some support from a weaker dollar. A weaker U.S. currency makes commodities cheaper for holders of other currencies. The dollar languished near an eight-month low as the U.S. budget standoff dragged on, heightening fears it could become embroiled in the likely struggle later this month to raise the U.S. borrowing limit.

The metals industry will gather in London next week for the LME Week, where term deals for 2014 in copper are expected to be hammered out.




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2013-August

  MARKET COMMENTARY

Copper mounted a respectable gain in August, wrapping up its biggest monthly gain in 11 months. However, most of the advance was concentrated in the first half of the month, as by the second half and going into the first week of September, we had a distinctly weaker tone set in. This was surprising given the better than expected Chinese macro numbers, coupled with the fact that Chinese cathode imports came in at a 10-month high in July. In addition, the LME stock picture looks modestly constructive, with stocks dropping from a June high of 678,225 tons to 603,000. Europe’s recovery also seems to be gaining traction and US growth is steady, if not spectacular. We see prices trading between $6900 – $7400 in September, with the weaker side of the range setting in later in the month and after the Fed has moved.

The Euro traded within a narrow range of $1.3200-$1.3450 in August. Helping its steady tone, was the fact that there were no fresh blowups in the credit markets, while on macro side, European data has improved significantly. In this regard, over the last two weeks we have seen stronger-than-expected manufacturing and service activity, as both business and consumer confidence readings continue to push higher.

With Syrian action deferred and some easing of emerging market turmoil, base metals have been caught this week between positive PMI data and, until today, escalating bond yields. They are ending the week little changed, except fierce little tin, long our favourite for its supply-side issues. The broad trend since the LME’s warehousing proposal of falling cancelled warrants, rising contangoes and, for aluminium, easing premiums continues. Syria will be back at centre stage next week, but support for base metals may come from a tapering of Fed taper expectations towards our house view.

Copper held up better than most metals earlier last week and has bounced Friday to record a slim gain w/w. The contango forward curve has steepened further, notably at the front. Though down today, exchange stocks have risen 29kt in the last two weeks and the cancelled warrant share of LME stocks continues to ease below 50%.

Copper rose on Monday, helped by data from China that reinforced expectations of a rebound in demand for metals from the world's largest consumer, and hopes the U.S. Federal Reserve would keep its stimulus programme intact for longer. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange rose to $7,235 a tonne, up from a close of $7,160 on Friday. Copper was traded $7080-$7290 a tonne in last week.
The metal used in power and construction has risen by around 9 percent since touching three-year lows in June on mounting evidence that the slowdown in the Chinese economy may be bottoming out. Data on the weekend showed China's exports rose by a forecast-beating 7.2 percent in August from a year earlier, while in-line inflation figures on Monday reflected tame consumer prices. China is the world's largest consumer of refined copper, accounting for around 40 percent of global demand. Data also showed China's copper imports fell to 387,564 tonnes in August from a 14-month high in the previous month, but analysts said the trend still showed healthy demand as the monthly figure represented the second highest shipment this year and was 8.9 percent higher than last year.

"What we are seeing generally is that Chinese data has been surprising on the upside and that's something that base metals have been taking their cue from," said Christin Tuxen, analyst at Danske Bank. "Overall we could see a short-term revival in base metals but that will require that Chinese data continues to improve and also that the Fed is not too aggressive in its (stimulus measures) tapering process."
Economists polled by Reuters still mostly expect the bank to scale back its stimulus at its policy meeting on Sept. 17-18. Two Federal Reserve officials over the weekend suggested the "tapering" plan is still on track. U.S. stock index futures signalled that Wall Street was likely to start the day on a positive note, aided by signs of renewed growth in China's economy.




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2013-July

 MARKET COMMENTARY

We were not surprised to see a relative degree of stability set in over the commodity markets over the course of July, especially considering the sell-off that set in over the last two weeks in June. The big movers in terms of individual commodities were the precious metals, with gold, silver and palladium being particularly strong. Energy markets also finished sharply higher, as did product prices, and combined with the strength seen in the precious group, the two account for the bulk of the increase in the CRB index this month.

Base metals trended mostly higher over the course of the month, but the ferrous group put on a more spirited run, with good gains seen in both iron ore prices as well as in the steel HRC contract.

In the currency markets, the dollar lost ground pretty much across the board, while the S&P 500 recovered almost of June’s losses to hit new highs. The 10-year bond market saw rates spike to a fresh high of 2.76% in early July, but the market has been slightly on the mend ever since.

Although Chinese copper demand imports turned higher in June following an equally strong performance in May, questions remain about whether this metal is going to end-users or if it is instead being used as
lendable collateral in what remains a tight credit market. Certainly, recent Chinese macro numbers do not lend support for stronger intake, as they have been running on the weaker side of late, making the financing argument all the more plausible. Some investors do not expect to see much of a change in prices over the course of August and expect the low end of the trading range at around $6600 to hold, while resistance will be at $7200.

Declining stock levels on both the LME and in Shanghai, coupled with talk of easy money/stimulus coming from the Fed should keep the low end of the range intact, particularly since such talk will weaken the dollar further. Moreover, the ICSG sees the copper market to be in a 266,000 ton surplus y-t-d through April and sees projected global demand falling 4% over this time.
London copper edged down on Wednesday as traders cautiously looked to key economic data from China later this week for indications on the outlook for demand from the world's top metals consumer. The world's No.2 economy has slowed in nine out of the past ten quarters, stoking worries about its demand for commodities and dragging down copper prices by 12 percent so far this year.
"We still have a bearish view given the Chinese growth slowdown. Markets are looking towards the data tomorrow. Copper has remained quite resilient to poor U.S. economic data, but if we see negative data out of China that could weigh on prices," said analyst Tim Radford of Sydney-based adviser Rivkin.
China's trade data is due on Thursday, with inflation, industrial output and retail sales on Friday. Exports, factory output and retail sales may have all edged up in July, according to a Reuters poll, showing initial signs of stabilisation in the Chinese economy as the government takes targeted steps to head off a sharper slowdown.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange had slipped 0.24 percent to $6,988.25 a tonne by 0908 GMT, after finishing up 0.4 percent in the previous session. Copper has been stuck between $6,600 and $7,100 since mid-June, with little prospect of prices breaking out before seasonal pre-Christmas demand ramps up in the fourth quarter.

Market players are also keeping an eye on the U.S. Federal Reserve to see when the central bank will start winding down its stimulus, a key driver of investment in global commodities. The Fed will probably reduce its massive bond-buying programme later this year, and depending on the economic data could do so as early as next month, a top Fed official who is typically among the most dovish policymakers said on Tuesday. A delayed start to scaling back bond purchases would support metals as cheap capital will then be available to investors for longer and because it undermines the dollar. A weaker dollar makes commodities priced in the greenback cheaper for holders of other currencies.



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2013-June

  MARKET COMMENTARY

Copper collapsed over the course of June, dropping by as much as $900 a ton from peak to trough. Much of the decline was attributable to growing concerns about slowing Chinese growth and the surprisingly sharp tightening in local credit markets. In addition, there were worries about Fed policy, as investors did not get a clear sense from Ben Bernanke whether the central bank would start its stimulus program in September or merely watch things as they evolved. In either case, the dolar strengthened in the wake of the Fed announcement, pressuring commodities lower in the process. LME stocks have resumed their climb and are now at 10-year highs and although Shanghai holdings are decreasing, this does not seem to be indicative of stronger spot demand, but likely a reaction to the difficulty in finding scrap or just an exercise in securing metal for financing purposes. On the demand side, Chinese cathode imports ticked higher in May, but are still 15% lower from year ago levels, while May scrap imports are down as well on a month-overmonth basis. In supply news, the Grasberg mine is up and running, removing a moderately bullish prop, while Chilean production remains strong as well (up 3.7% y-o-y through May). However, premiums remain at record highs.

Following a mixed few days, copper, previously under pressure, led a strong rally on Thursday as the market tapered its taper talk after the latest Bernanke speech and FOMC minutes. Some momentum has been lost as the focus has shifted to China, but LMEX is ending the week with a 3-4% gain. Inverse correlation with the USD has returned towards historical norms.

After open interest had leapt to its highest since 2008, copper led the Fed-driven rally on Thursday. Exchange stocks have fallen 39kt mtd, although cancelled warrants have eased to ‘only’ 53% of the LME total. Grasberg is restarting underground mining and Oyu Tolgoi has made its first shipment. Chinese unwrought imports rose 6% m/m and 10% y/y in June to 380kt, but since then SHFE’s premium over the LME has narrowed.

Copper fell on Monday as the dollar rose and after data from China showed a slowdown in the world's top consumer of the metal. China's economic growth slowed to 7.5 percent in the second quarter, from 7.7 percent in the first quarter, though the figures were in line with expectations, helping to limit copper's losses. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was $6,920 a tonne in official rings from Friday's $6,954 close. Its gains of 2.4 percent last week represented the biggest weekly rise since early May.

Many commodities are especially sensitive to growth in China. The country accounts for about 40 percent of global consumption of copper, which is used extensively in construction and power cables. Commodities priced in dollars are also vulnerable to moves in the currency. Its strength on Monday made copper more expensive for holders of other currencies. However, currency markets were cautious ahead of U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's congressional testimony on July 17-18, which will be closely watched for more clarity on the central bank's intentions.




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2013-May

 MARKET COMMENTARY

The market has largely come to terms with the slower growth outlook for China. As such, the base metal complex is now stabilising and range trading heading into the summer following several months of downwards trending prices. As some investors said at the time, consensus expectations were too high for China earlier this year and there was complacency about the fiscal and macro risks still clouding the European and US economies.

Concerns over Chinese deleveraging and liquidity have emerged in recent weeks and need to be monitored closely, while fading commitment to QE in the US and disruption in some of the emerging markets are also weighing on the complex and commodities in general. On balance however, with Chinese data offering fewer negative surprises, arguably most of the downside is now priced in. Whether another summer slump therefore emerges, again depends on exogenous factors, in particular Chinese liquidity.

There have been plenty of price-supportive factors in the copper market recently: Supply disruptions, scrap shortages, short positioning being unwound, improvements in Chinese demand, and declining spot availability as LME cancelled warrants rise and queues form. Prices remain volatile, though
some of these positives will lose their clout. Together with concerns over central banks’ commitment to QE, this should cap any attempts to rally. Provided the supply disruptions keep coming however, and continue to take the edge of the rising tide of new supply (Oyu Tolgoi is about to ship its first concentrates), we still see scope for tighter end to the year, which should be reflected in premiums and spreads in Q4, and potentially prices too. Higher prices over the past month has been in line with expectations, with prices averaging $7,642/tonne in the five months to May.

London copper rose more than 1 percent today after posting its steepest weekly decline in two months, as investors covered short positions ahead of a key Federal Reserve meeting that could provide greater clarity on U.S. monetary policy. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is expected to indicate the economy is still performing too poorly to justify slowing the pace of its $85-billion-a-month bond buying right away, at the end of the central bank's two-day meeting on Wednesday. But rising inflation figures could prompt the Fed to rein in stimulus sooner than expected, sapping the liquidity available to metals producers and commodities investors, said Jonathan Barratt, chief executive of Barratt's Bulletin, a Sydney-based commodity research firm.
"If inflation numbers are a little higher than expectations, then the Fed might come out and say they will taper sooner. I think that would be taken negatively for copper," he said. So far, data shows underlying U.S. inflation pressures have remained well below the central bank's 2 percent target. U.S. CPI data for May is due on Tuesday.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was up 0.68 percent to $7,138 a tonne by 0918 GMT, after rising to as much as $7,176, as shorts rushed to cover positions, two traders said. Copper prices finished last week down nearly 2 percent, their steepest weekly decline since mid-April.

Fundamental demand remains steady and is likely to keep a floor under prices, Barratt said. "We’re at that point where the market is pretty happy to be here, and not to push too much lower. China's 7 percent growth still requires copper as does the housing market in the States," he said. Hedge funds and money managers turned vastly more negative on the copper market in the week to June 11, increasing their net short positions in copper futures and options for the first time in four weeks and by the most in more than six months.




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2013-April

MARKET COMMENTARY

Commodity markets are recovering from two large downward moves since late March. The uptrend appears to be gaining support, with the DJ-UBS commodity return index registering higher lows since the week of 22 April. While China remains a worry given the potential for further disappointments in Q2 macro data, some experts believe this has generally been priced in and commodities will continue to recover from oversold positions. Net speculative positions in many key commodities are currently close to their two-year lows. They had previously expected a moderate dip in commodity prices in Q2 versus Q1, and the magnitude of the correction surprised them. However, their expectation of the general trend remains unchanged – commodities are likely to see a stronger H2 on the back of current oversold positions, improving global economic data, and improving appetite from key commodity consumers, especially China.

Gold led the market lower on 12 April and lost 13.7% within two trading days. It has rallied strongly from its recent lows, but investors believe they should remain cautious. The selling momentum has not reversed, and ETFs saw further outflows over the past week. On a one-month view, they recommend that investors and producers sell the rallies in gold, as physical demand is easing after an initial surge.
Copper prices trended lower throughout April, although price action was volatile as bulls and bears fought for control. Bears primarily focused on the weak macroeconomic picture and the continued improvement in supply from places like Chile. Chile’s production rose 8% y/y in March, and growth is running at 4.5% y/y on a 12-month rolling basis. LME stocks are also building and are up 5% m/m. A bullish factor is that China’s underlying demand continues at a decent pace. Fabricated copper output, a proxy for demand, rose 17% y/y in March.

Today copper fell as the dollar strengthened and on concern about lacklustre demand for the metal in top consumer China that was compounded by evidence the European and United States economies are still struggling. Copper is seen as an economic bellwether because it is used extensively in construction and power cables.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was down 0.6 percent at $7,151 a tonne, from a close of $7,198 on Wednesday. "The U.S. dollar is getting substantially stronger and the movement in copper seems to be tracking that quite highly. And we still see quite limited activity from China," analyst George Adcock at broker Marex Spectron said.

The dollar was near a six-week high against the euro and a 4-1/2 year peak against the yen on Thursday on prospects for more monetary easing in the euro zone and scaled back asset buying in the United States. The depth of the euro zone's downturn was shown in data on Thursday. Falling prices in Germany and France pulled consumer inflation to a three-week low in April, highlighting the risk of deflation, and imports fell 10 percent in March. In the United States, factory output dropped in April and manufacturing activity in New York state contracted this month, data showed on Wednesday.

China's demand for commodities has weakened, and the country's vice-premier Zhang Gaoli said in remarks published late on Wednesday that China must "strictly prohibit" further expansion of bloated industrial sectors. Overall, all commodities are under pressure. This was reflected in reports this week that showed global investment banks suffered another bruising decline in commodity trading in the first three months of this year.

A stronger dollar makes commodities priced in the greenback more expensive for holders of other currencies.







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2013-March

MARKET COMMENTARY

For the third consecutive week, on the London Metal Exchange copper fell. It made a low of $7,331 only to recover in the last couple of sessions to close at $7,422. It was flat at the beginning of April after a slump in factory output in the U.S. was offset by a revival in manufacturing in China. The second-largest economy’s manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index rose to an 11-month high of 50.9. Despite a rise in China’s vast service sector PMI, which came in at 55.6, prices tumbled due to record high unemployment in Europe (12%) and stockpiles at the LME rose. The copper prices made the low of the last week as private employment figures in the U.S. came in below expectations, raising doubts about the ongoing global recovery, along with rising inventories. However, prices recovered later in the session when strikes at Chilean ports halted 9,000 tons of exports daily along with the closure of the Tuticorin smelter in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the largest in India. On Friday, markets fell again as nonfarm payrolls data from the U.S. came in way below expectations, at just 88,000, against expectations of 196,000.

Global exchange stocks, comprising those registered on the LME, the COMEX and the Shanghai Futures Exchange, have surged by 290,000 tons since the start of the year. Visible inventory hit 832,500 tons at March-end, the highest since 2003. In theory, such an ample cushion should buffer the market from precisely the sort of unforeseen supply disruptions of the last few days.

This morning copper prices slipped as concerns about the outlook for demand and global oversupply weighed on sentiment although some optimism about China's economic revival helped cushion falls. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange traded at $7,550.50 a tonne, down 0.3 percent from Wednesday's close at $7,575.
Prices hit a two-week high of $7,645.25 this week, rebounding from 8-month lows at the start of April, but traders said they are selling into rallies. The metal used in power and construction is down by almost 5 percent this year.
"In general we attribute the weakness to institution investors fleeing commodity markets due to the weak performance in recent months and during the last year compared to equities," said Daniel Briesemann, analyst at Commerzbank. "Looking ahead, investors are focused on economic data including China’s GDP numbers, which will be a major driver for base metals prices."
Demand remains uncertain due partly to rising stockpiles and a slowdown in economic growth in China, which accounts for as much as 40 percent of global demand for refined copper.
China's annual economic growth is likely to have nudged higher in the first three months of 2013 over the last quarter of 2012, with fixed asset investment and factory output growth in double digits, a Reuters poll showed. Also greasing the wheels of industry in China, banks extended 1.06 trillion yuan ($171.2 billion) of new local currency loans in March, sharply up from the previous month, central bank data showed.
In the United States, commodities prices were hurt by uncertainty over the outlook for the Federal Reserve's stimulus programme, with the minutes of its meeting last month suggesting the central bank could be on course to end its extraordinary bond buying by year-end. Chinese imports of key commodities rebounded in March from the month before as hopes of a strengthening economy encouraged end-users to ramp up output and cautiously replenish stocks.
China's March copper arrivals rose 7.2 percent from a month earlier on hopes factories would resume output after the Lunar New Year break, but fell by a sharp 30 percent from a year ago, indicating the pick-up in demand was not as strong as expected. The world's top consumer has also exported some of its surplus. The latest data showed exports of refined copper jumped to 64,781 tonnes for the first two months of the year, up from 753 tonnes from the same period a year earlier.




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2013-February

MARKET COMMENTARY

Base metals crumbled during February, with broad based selling palpable across the commodity complex. Several reasons can be attributed to this weakness. Primarily, markets seem not to be impressed with the fact that recovery in global economy remains erratic. Post Lunar New Year holiday period in China, the economic activity has not been encouraging. There have been doubts regarding any uptick in domestic demand in the short run. Retail sales in China during the week -long Lunar New Year festival rose at their slowest pace during the past four years. In addition, speculation is rife that local Chinese government entities may impose further restrictions on housing markets. It is widely reported that Chinese government is planning to move ahead
with plans to increase down payments and loan rates for buyers of second homes in cities where prices are rising too quickly. China’s government has also announced plans to impose a 20% income tax on property gains in an effort to curb speculation.

LME Copper prices breached the significant support of US$8,000/ton, primarily weighed by persistent rise in warehouse stocks and slowing Chinese appetite for imports. LME stocks have surged by literally 60% during this year and cancelled warrants have also fallen substantially, which convey signs of easing supply as well as moderating demand. Meanwhile, China’s refined copper imports during February declined to 20 months low amid high domestic inventories. Relevantly, Codelco has reported that it will reduce refined copper shipments to China this year as the nation’s needs have shifted to concentrate imports. China is moving its import needs from refined metal to copper concentrate, as domestic production for the refined metal has surged. On mine supply, there are strong signs of expansion. In this respect, Chile produced 474,496 tons of copper in January,an impressive 8.6% increase from a year earlier. The country’s output for 2012 came in at 5.455mn tons, up by 3%. 

Shanghai copper rose to a 1-1/2-week high in this morning, tracking gains made in the previous session in London and spurred by improving demand in China as it embraces a seasonal upturn in consumption of the metal. Investors are watching the annual gathering of China's parliament and any policy that would affect demand in the world's largest copper consumer, as Beijing struggles to shift away from a resource-intense growth model that has created problems including heavy pollution. But for the next month or so, the rising demand from copper fabricators which supply manufacturers of air conditioners, among others, will support copper prices, analysts said.

"The seasonal increase in copper consumption will materialise, unless we see major disruption from severe problems with economic growth," said Judy Zhu, an analyst at Standard Chartered in Shanghai, who expected copper to rise to $8,400 by the end of April on the demand. The most-traded June copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange rose to 57,160 yuan ($9,200) a tonne, its highest since Feb. 28, before easing to close at 56,850 yuan. Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange inched down 0.1 percent to $7,820 a tonne by 1301 GMT, close to $7,883 a tonne hit on Tuesday, its highest level since Feb. 28.






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