Copper price above $10,000 as supply worries counter faltering demand

Copper cathode. Image: Kaz Minerals

Copper climbed above $10,000 a ton as predictions for tighter global supplies and rising consumption in electric vehicles and power grids countered signs of demand destruction in top user China.

Prices of copper have risen 17% this year on fears of shortages, with aging mines forecast to struggle to keep pace with demand. Supply growth is stagnating, according to ANZ Group Holdings Ltd. analysts including Daniel Hynes. Prices needed to stay around $12,000 a ton to achieve a 10% rate of return for a 300,000-ton mine, they said.

Still, Chinese fabricators are cutting back on purchases of refined metal in response to the recent rally. Copper wire plants in China were operating at 73% of capacity last month, down 14 percentage points from a year ago, according to a survey from Shanghai Metals Market published this week.

Base metals including copper risk a pullback as a recent push higher rests upon investors’ fear of missing out on gains, rather than on any change seen yet in underlying market balances, Macquarie Group Ltd. said in a note this week.

In the meantime, sizable cuts in refined copper output are yet to happen in China, despite pledges by smelters to do so because of tight concentrate supply. Refined production in April was up 1.6% from a year earlier and 2% higher than expected, according to Shanghai Metals Market, citing their surveys, ahead of government data later this month.

Copper rose 1.3% to $10,028 a ton on the London Metal Exchange as of 1:44 p.m. in Shanghai on Friday. Most base metals were higher.


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