China’s Demand for Copper Expected to Rise

M-2 money supply in China climbed to record levels during the final month of 2011 which some believe is a bullish signal for commodities.

Base metals were the laggards among commodities last year, with copper one of the worst performers, losing 21 percent.

Global consumption of copper increased only 4 percent in 2011, which is lower than the 10 percent growth in 2010, but higher than the decade-average of around 3 percent, says Macquarie Research. China’s consumption of copper—which makes up 40 percent of the global demand—was a primary reason for decreased consumption, as the country was drawing down on its own supply throughout the year.

This can’t continue forever, Macquarie says, adding that “demand made on new supply direct from producers would need to rise, with positive implications for prices.” Europe’s largest copper fabricator agrees with that sentiment, indicating that it anticipated China’s copper demand would be strong in 2012, according to Barclays.

A recent rise in copper imports is likely the result of restocking China’s depleted copper inventories. As is typical for China, after the metal fell in price last fall, the world’s largest buyer of the metal advantageously scooped up copper to replenish its cupboard, says Barclays Capital. As shown below, copper inventories into China reached a record low in 2011, but have sharply reversed recently.

An increase in copper demand places pressure on the supply side, which continues to experience shortfalls in mine output versus forecasts. These are caused by a variety of factors, such as weather, labor strikes, or simply a poor grade deposit. While Macquarie says there’s a possibility the world’s two largest copper mines, the Los Bronces mine in Indonesia and Peru’s Escondida mine, could deliver year-over-year increases in production, it concludes “it is highly unlikely that miners will succeed in delivering this level of additional output in total.”

While Chinese demand growth for commodities is not expected to be as robust as it has been historically, demand is expected to pick up throughout 2012. As confidence returns, Macquarie says there should be “a slow gradient of recovery in the near term before gathering pace into the mid-year.”

From the article, “It May Take a Dragon to Breathe Fire Into the Markets” by Frank Holmes. Frank Holmes is chief executive officer of U.S. Global Investors – a registered investment adviser that manages approximately $2.8 billion. The information provided herein has been provided to MiningFeeds.com by the author and, as such, is subject to our disclaimer: CLICK HERE.

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