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Copper prices may see ‘supercharged recovery’ in 2020

Copper prices may see ‘supercharged recovery’ in 2020
The price of copper, which has surged lately, is likely to stabilize in the coming quarters, industry experts say. The red metal is often seen as a bellwether for the general state of the global economy.

Three-month copper futures on the London Metal Exchange (LME) hit the $6,000-a-ton mark by the end of June, rebounding from its low of around $4,626.50 at the height of Covid-19 fears in March. On Monday, three-month copper on the LME rose 1.2 percent to trade at around $6,088 a ton.

According to Jonathan Barnes, senior copper analyst at Roskill, copper prices will be influenced by continued pressure on supply in the coming quarters. “So, what we might actually see is a supercharged recovery in the copper price this year, but actually next year we could see the prices more or less stabilize because this unique impact of Covid-19 and the dislocation to the scrap market suddenly is absent,” he told CNBC.

Experts at Citi say the metal could be overvalued going into the third quarter. “The copper rally over the past month, from $5,700 a ton to over $6,000 a ton, has occurred against a backdrop of flat-to-falling equity prices and bond yields, leaving copper looking overvalued by $220 to $420 per ton based on these historical relationships,” said the bank’s analysts.

“Overall, we stick with our very near-term point price target of $5,750 a ton (versus spot of $6,050 a ton) though we see a window for a pullback as the two to four weeks, and ultimately we recommend buying on dips,” they said.

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They were echoed by Saxo Bank analysts, with the head of its commodity strategy Ole Hansen saying: “Copper’s recent recovery to pre-pandemic levels will challenge the metal’s ability to reach higher ground in the third quarter.”

The strategist explained that “a recovery in Chinese demand, combined with supply disruptions at mines in South America, were the triggers that finally forced speculators back into long positions following the break above $2.50/lb. The risk of a second wave – especially in the US and China, the world’s two biggest consumers – may force a rethink and we see no further upside during the coming quarter.”

Demand for the metal is projected to be stronger in the second half of the year, as economies and industries restart across the globe.

“We have a positive outlook and expect quite solid demand growth over the next few years,” Eleni Joannides, principal analyst in Wood Mackenzie’s copper team, told CNBC. “But while the picture is looking positive for demand, it’s looking even stronger on the supply side. So, when we look at the balance between supply and demand, we’re still looking at a surplus market for the next couple of years, and that will put some downward pressure on prices.”

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