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Commodities

Factbox-Main facts about the copper market as prices hit record highs

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LONDON (Reuters) – Copper surged to record highs on Monday as a recent rally triggered by short covering created momentum for speculators and funds to bet on higher prices of the metal.

Below are the main facts about the market, sourced from the International Copper Study Group (ICSG), the International Copper Association (ICA), and Reuters data.

INDUSTRIAL USES

Copper is used in the power and construction industries and is widely expected to benefit in future from the green energy transition via additional demand from the electric vehicle sector and new applications including data centers for artificial intelligence (AI).

Equipment manufacturing is currently the largest end-use sector for copper, followed by construction and infrastructure.

Global apparent use of refined copper rose from 10 million metric tons in the late 1980s to 26.5 million tons in 2023 as Asia became the largest consumer with a 70% share of consumption. As of 2022, China was the largest consumer of refined copper with usage of 14.7 million tons.

PRODUCTION CHAIN BY TYPE AND BY REGION

Deposits of copper, one of the first metals used by humans, are widespread around the globe. Scrap accounts for significant amounts of global supply annually.

Copper’s primary production chain starts from the mining of copper-bearing ores, then moves to production of copper concentrates typically containing around 30% copper.

The smelting process transforms concentrate into a matte containing 50-70% copper. The matte is processed into a blister copper of 98.5-99.5% copper content. In the next step, refined cathodes are produced with 99.99% copper content.

Copper mine production totalled 22.4 million tons in 2023, with Chile, Peru and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) being the largest producers. Production of refined copper, including secondary or scrap, totalled 26.5 million tons in 2023, with China being the largest producer.

MAJOR EXPORTERS AND IMPORTERS

Global copper trade includes all major products in the processing chain – concentrates, blister and anode, cathode and ingots, scrap and semi-fabricated products.

Chile, Peru and Indonesia are major exporters of copper ores and concentrates, while China, Japan and South Korea are major importers of these products.

In the market for copper blister and anode, Zambia, Chile and DRC are major exporters, with China and India being major importers.

For the refined copper trade, Chile, DRC and Russia are major exporters, while China, the U.S. and Italy are major importers.

SUPPLY-DEMAND BALANCE

The global 26.5 million-ton refined copper market was balanced in 2023, but faces a surplus of 162,000 metric tons this year and 94,000 tons in 2025, according to the ICSG, as refined production is forecast to rise by 2.8% in 2024 and 2.2% in 2025.

However, the supply of copper from mines has been lower than expected so far this year due to the slower ramp-up of a number of projects, delays in new projects and the December closure of First Quantum (NASDAQ:)’s major Cobre Panama mine.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A shipment of copper is seen in the port of Valparaiso city, about 121 km (75 miles) northwest of Santiago, June 29, 2009.    REUTERS/Eliseo Fernandez/File Photo

This has tightened the supply of copper concentrate to smelters in China and is visible in collapsing refining and treatment charges (TCs) in the country.

Despite tight supply of copper concentrate, current demand for copper in China is relatively weak as inventories in warehouses monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange are near four-year highs and the premium to import copper into China’s Yangshan area is at zero.

Commodities

Oil edges up as summer demand hopes offset downbeat China data

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By Alex Lawler

LONDON (Reuters) -Oil edged higher on Monday as hopes for a boost to demand from the summer driving season in the northern hemisphere offset Chinese data that underscored a bumpy recovery for the world’s biggest crude importer.

Apart from retail sales that beat forecasts due to a holiday boost, the flurry of Chinese data on Monday was largely downbeat. The data followed a survey on Friday showing U.S. consumer sentiment fell to a seven-month low in June.

Global benchmark futures were up 33 cents, or 0.4%, to $82.95 a barrel at 1212 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures gained 25 cents, or 0.3%, to $78.70.

Last week, both benchmarks posted their first weekly gain in four weeks on elevated confidence that oil inventories are set to plunge as the summer season gets under way in the northern hemisphere amid continued OPEC+ supply cuts.

“The market initially responded negatively to mixed data from China,” said Ole Hansen of Saxo Bank.

“But the outlook for strong fuel demand into the coming quarter and Saudi reassurance about the October hike being subject to prevailing conditions and added focus on quota breakers to bring production down and into line all seems to be supporting.”

Saudi Arabia has said OPEC+’s planned fourth-quarter increase in output can be can paused or reversed if needed. Russia and Iraq, which have been pumping more than their OPEC+ quotas, pledged last week to meet their obligations.

Reports from OPEC and the International Energy Agency last week, although differing on the strength of oil demand growth this year, had supported confidence that inventories would be drawn down in the second half.

Still, BofA analysts said in a report that while the market consensus is for higher oil prices in the third quarter, there is a risk to prices if weak supply and demand balances persist.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view shows oil tanks of Transneft oil pipeline operator at the crude oil terminal Kozmino on the shore of Nakhodka Bay near the port city of Nakhodka, Russia August 12, 2022. REUTERS/Tatiana Meel/File Photo

“It is not yet clear whether balances will firm enough in the third quarter to tip the market from a large apparent surplus into a deficit that can lift prices,” BofA analysts including Francisco Blanch wrote.

On the geopolitical front, concerns of a wider Middle East war lingered after the Israeli military said on Sunday that intensified cross-border fire from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement into Israel could trigger serious escalation.

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Record copper prices likely to pause U.S. scrap shipments to China

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By Pratima Desai and Julian Luk

LONDON (Reuters) – China’s scrap imports have soared due to shortages of concentrate that is processed into refined metal used in the power and construction industries, but record high prices mean U.S. shipments are likely to pause.

Smelters in top copper consumer China have faced concentrate shortages since last year when First Quantum (NASDAQ:) lost the right to operate its Cobre mine in Panama, which accounted for 1% of global mined supply in 2022.

China’s copper waste and scrap imports overall climbed 25% to 783,004 tonnes in the first four months of this year compared to the same period in 2023, according to Trade Data Monitor (TDM).

TDM data also shows China’s scrap imports from the United States jumped 37% to 153,059 tonnes in January to April this year from the same period last year.

Copper scrap from the U.S. is priced at a discount to the CME price, which hit a record $5.1985 a lb or $11,460 a tonne on May 20 due to parties which had sold futures being forced to buy them back or roll over positions.

“Chinese buyers are deferring U.S. copper scrap shipments,” a source at a Chinese trading firm said, adding that China’s top scrap supplier was the United States.

The source said some Chinese buyers were looking to price U.S. scrap against copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME), trading at a discount to CME prices.

Deteriorating production at other mines, many in Latin America, has exacerbated concentrate shortages and Chinese smelters have imported more copper scrap to feed their furnaces and protect their margins.

China is home to half of the world’s copper smelters and the largest buyer of raw materials including concentrates and scrap.

Scrap typically accounts for about 9 million tonnes or roughly 30% of global copper supplies annually.

“Due to concentrate tightness copper smelters are processing more scrap and blister,” said Macquarie analyst Alice Fox.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A worker loads copper cathodes into a warehouse near Yangshan Deep Water Port, south of Shanghai March 23, 2012. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/ File Photo

“Given the cost of physical collection and processing – during periods of significant price movement, scrap tonnages on a contained copper basis can move by up to one million tonnes per annum, effectively rebalancing the market during periods of high or low prices.”

Macquarie expects the gap between copper supply and demand to widen to 1.6 million tonnes in 2030 from a deficit around 86,000 tonnes this year.

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Commodities

Crude oil edges higher; tone constructive despite weak Chinese data

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Investing.com — Oil prices edged higher Monday, continuing the previous week’s upbeat note despite some bumpy data out of China, the world’s biggest importer. 

By 08:35 ET (12.35 GMT), the futures traded 0.5% higher at $78.41 a barrel and the contract climbed 0.4% to $82.97 a barrel. 

Gains follow a winning week

The crude benchmarks recorded a winning week last week, their first in four weeks, buoyed by expectations that the Northern Hemisphere summer vacation season will boost fuel demand this summer. 

The monthly reports by both the and the , released last week, had pointed to inventories being drawn down in the second half of the year, even as they differed about the level of demand growth.

China data largely disappoints

That said, this positive tone has been tested by uneven economic data out of China, pointing to a stuttering recovery in the second largest economy in the world.

came in ahead of expectations in May, helped by a holiday boost, but May grew 5.6% from a year earlier, slowing from the 6.7% pace in April and below expectations for a 6.0% increase.

Additionally, crude oil refinery output in China fell 1.8% year-on-year in May, primarily due to planned/unplanned maintenance outages and curtailed processing rates on account of higher crude oil prices and lower margins. 

Middle East tensions provide support

Providing a degree of support were the continued concerns of a wider Middle East war, after the Israeli military said on Sunday that intensified cross-border fire from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement into Israel could trigger serious escalation.

Additionally, weekly data from showed that U.S. oil rigs fell by four rigs for a third straight week over the last week, with the total oil rig count reaching 488 for the week ended 14 June 2024. 

“This is the lowest number of active oil rigs since the first week of January 2022, and is down by 64 rigs from a year ago,” analysts at ING said, in a note, pointing to weaker supply going forward.

There is little on the energy calendar this week – just the usual weekly U.S. inventory reports from the and the .

Traders are also likely to pay attention to speeches from a number of Federal Reserve officials as they try to judge the likely path of U.S. interest rates this year, given the likely impact of this on activity in the world’s largest economy.

 

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