Copper price and coronavirus: “Black swan like no other”
The copper price declined again on Monday as markets in China, responsible for more than 50% of the world’s copper consumption, reopened to deep losses after an extended halt to trading due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Thirteen consecutive down days in New York saw copper for delivery in March pushed down 14% in value, last trading at $2.4875 a pound ($5,485 a tonne) on the Comex market in New York.
Volumes were massive, with the equivalent of 3.1 billion pounds of copper (1.4m tonnes) traded by mid-afternoon on Monday. If the metal closes below $2.50 it would be the lowest level since mid-May 2017.
In a research note, Moody’s Capital Markets Research chief economist John Lonski said that a coronavirus pandemic (and the declaration of the outbreak as such seems imminent) would be a “black swan like no other.”
A coronavirus pandemic would be even more of a “black swan” than the global financial crisis and Great Recession of 2008-2009.
Unlike the U.S. home mortgage meltdown, no one predicted the early 2020 arrival of a potentially devastating pandemic.
And unlike the financial crisis, public-health and economic policymakers may be limited regarding their ability to remedy or offset a 1918 (or Spanish flu) type pandemic.
Moody’s says due to the outsize role of China in global industrial activity and the sluggishness evident in the base metals complex even before the outbreak, the impact of a full-blown pandemic would be considerable.
The industrial metals price index [before the outbreak] was not even close to mimicking its recovery following the global slowdown and profits recession of 2015-2016.
Simply getting the monthly averages down to their respective lows of 2015-2016’s profits recession would drop the base metals price index by 26% and sink the price of WTI crude oil by 43% from their recent readings.
Copper prices bottomed at $1.94 a pound in January 2016 and averaged $2.21 for the year, the lowest annual average price since 2005. Zinc price fell to a low of $1,453 a tonne that same month while nickel’s lowest point came in February of 2016 at $7,725 a tonne.