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GM’s battery switch more good news for lead

Standard lead-acid stop-start battery technology replaces pricey lithium-ion option for 2014 Chevrolet Malibu

The news from the metals world’s number one annual gathering – LME Week – which ended on Friday has provided a fillip for lead miners.

For the first time since 2008, a survey of metals and mining investors polled by Macquarie, did not pick copper as their favourite metal for 2014.

That honour went to lead (and tin).

When asked in which metal they would most like to hold a long position on a 12-month view, tin and lead shared first place each with 28% of votes cast according to the survey.

The renewed faith in the lead market, which has suffered from years of surplus, made it the best performing metal last week adding more than 2% compared to retreat in copper.

The LME audience’s weighted average price expectation for cash lead was $2,278 a tonne a year from now, compared with Friday’s LME cash price of $2,072 a tonne.

Not spectacular upside potential, but analysts at investment banks Barclays and Standard Bank are much more optimistic predicting a price of $2,450 and $2,540 in 2014 thanks to lead moving into balanced market.

Lead was also boosted this week by an announcement by General Motors that it is dropping a lithium-ion battery from its popular Malibu sedan in favour of a cheaper lead-acid battery.

“The 2014 Chevrolet Malibu uses a “start-stop” system with a lead-acid battery to improve fuel economy and achieve the same fuel economy as the older model, which used a lithium-ion battery-based eAssist technology to boost mileage. The new technology is standard on all 2014 models; EAssist was a $1,500 option on 2013 Malibus,” according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Battery systems are responsible for 80% of global demand for lead.