Goldman Sachs: Copper price heading for $1.80

The 400,000tpa Las Bambas mine made its first shipment in January 2016. Image: MMG

In New York trade on Friday copper for delivery in September continued to drift lower over worries about a flood of new supply hitting the market in the medium term and an unclear demand picture.

Copper was lasting trading at just over $2.15 per pound ($4,740 a tonne), close to a four-week low.  While other industrial metals and steelmaking raw materials have jumped in value this year, industry bellwether copper has been underperforming badly. The red metal has gone nowhere year to date following a 26% decline in 2015.

Demand has been relatively robust with imports from China, responsible for nearly half of the global trade, hitting records during the first half of 2016.

Apart from below average disruptions at existing operations and relentless cost cutting by producers, investment bank Goldman Sachs warned on Friday in a note discussed on Bloomberg TV that the price of copper wouldn’t withstand an expected surge in additional supply through the rest of the year and in 2017:

“Company guidance and our estimates suggest that copper is entering the eye of the supply storm”

Goldman tracks the top 20 copper mining companies accounting for roughly 60% of global output. These miners increased output 5% year-on-year in the first half of 2016, and are expected to up production as much as 15% in the coming quarters, according to the report.

Freeport’s Grasberg mine in Indonesia and Cerro Verde operation in Peru, BHP Billiton’s Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine and First Quantum’s Sentinel mine in Zambia are adding tonnes early next year, while Minmetal’s giant Las Bambas mine in Peru is also ramping up production.

The investment bank is now predicting a double digit decline in the price over the next 12 months hitting a low of $4,000 a tonne ($1.80 a pound) during this period.

That’s well below even the most pessimistic predictions – consensus forecast of 30 institutions compiled by FocusEconomics sees copper averaging $4,867 in the final quarter of 2016 and $5,168 in Q4 2017.