Chile: Copper prices plummet to an over one-year low in August
September 6, 2018
Copper prices lost considerable ground in August falling to a 13-month low against the backdrop of an ongoing emerging-market selloff and an escalation of the trade dispute between the U.S. and China. Prices averaged USD 2.75 per pound (equivalent to USD 6,051 per ton) in August, down from July’s USD 2.84 per pound (equivalent to USD 6,251 per ton). As a result, the average copper price in August was 6.8% lower than in the same month last year, marking the first year-on-year contraction in nearly two years.
Chinese manufacturing activity growth cooled in August amid shrinking export orders, reflecting a broader economic slowdown, and exerting strong downward pressure on global copper prices. In the context of significant uncertainty over the global trade outlook which has cooled investors’ appetite for riskier assets, the ongoing economic turmoil in Turkey and Argentina has fueled a wave of global risk aversion, which hit copper prices further. Significant volatility in emerging market currencies and a stronger U.S. dollar led the copper price to decrease as investors favored safer assets such as U.S. government bonds.
On the supply side, a new collective contract between the unions and the operator of Escondida copper mine, the world’s largest, was signed on 17 August, alleviating fears of industrial action and signaling that production levels will be sustained. Meanwhile, China’s state-backed Zijin Mining has reportedly agreed to buy Canadian Nevsun Resources in a move seen as Beijing’s attempt to better control copper supply. Nevertheless, in the medium- to long-term, copper prices should rise on solid global demand for copper growth largely stemming from the auto sector and related electric vehicle infrastructure
Author: Almanas Stanapedis, Economist