Against expectations and in some instances in defiance of fundamentals, commodities managed to climb a wall of worry over the first four months of 2016 giving mining stocks a welcome boost after three years of declines.
But seven trading days into May and much of the gains are being wiped out as fears about the health of the Chinese economy returns with a vengeance. Demand for bellwether commodities now appear weaker than previously thought as stockpiles of copper and iron ore inside the country build to record levels.
After seven days of relentless selling iron ore appears destined for further falls while the weakness in copper has pushed the metal back into negative territory for the year. Among industrial metals tin remains the clear winner, but volatile nickel is now down 9% from its 2016 high struck barely a week ago.
Precious metals have had a great year, but the rally in silver – the year’s best performing metal – is beginning to look shaky. Silver is down more than 6% from after scaling $18 an ounce for the first time since January 2015 at the end of last month. Palladium’s move back above $600 an ounce has also been cut short.
Among the major mining stocks the sell-off has been even more brutal led by 2016’s greatest comeback story Anglo American. The London-listed diversified mining company is down sharply from recent highs but is by no means alone in receiving punishment from investors who believe the gains are behind us.
In fact, the world’s five biggest diversified miners are all down by double digits ten days into May.