(Bloomberg) — Copper rallied above $9,000 a ton for the first time in more than nine years on bets that increased demand driven by the recovery from the pandemic will spur a historic deficit, putting the economic bellwether on course for a record run of monthly gains.
Prices climbed more than 3% on Monday and are heading for an unprecedented eleventh monthly rise in February. Base metals are on tear on expectations that post-crisis consumption will outstrip near-term supply, with raw materials like copper and nickel getting an additional boost from their importance to the clean-energy transition. The furious pace of the advance has market watchers debating whether a new commodity supercycle is now in the offing.
The metal’s revival marks a turnaround from earlier in the month, when copper hit turbulence as investors signaled the need for more details about stimulus measures and on concerns about a softening in Chinese demand. But prices rose during China’s Lunar New Year as factory production was more buoyant than usual. Expectations for a revival in inflation have helped, too
“Market sentiment is heated right now in anticipation of a new cycle of global inflation,” Jia Zheng, an analyst with Goldtrust Futures Co., said from Shanghai. “Chinese investors returning from Lunar New Year holidays are waiting for more stimulus from the U.S. and Europe. Fundamentally, Chinese demand has exceeded expectations, as travel restrictions boosted consumption.”
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. reinforced its bullish stance last week, saying that China’s return from the week-long break had triggered another leg higher for prices. The market is facing the largest deficit in a decade this year, with a high risk of scarcity over the coming months, according to the bank.
There are already signs of emerging tightness on the London Metal Exchange, as spot contracts trade at a premium to futures. That pattern, known as backwardation, was a feature of the market during a record-breaking boom in Chinese demand last year, and suggests that spot demand is once again outpacing supply as exchange inventories run low.
Adding to concerns about a supply squeeze are possible production cuts at a top Chinese smelter. Inventories tracked by the Shanghai Futures Exchange are the lowest for this time of year in more than a decade.
Three-month copper traded at $9,110 a ton on the LME at 9:58 a.m. in Singapore after hitting $9,187, the highest since 2011. In China, the Shanghai Futures Exchange contract hit the daily limit. Other metals rose, with LME tin at the highest since 2011, and nickel rallying toward $20,000 a ton.
Copper’s rally has been a boon for suppliers. Jiangxi Copper Co., China’s top producer, gained as much as 13% in Hong Kong to the highest level since 2013. In Australia, OZ Minerals Ltd. has more than doubled over the past 12 months, and shares in BHP Group and Rio Tinto Group rose on Monday.
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