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Copper climbs to 2024 high as Wall Street banks raise price forecasts

Copper plates on wagons ready for onward shipping at the Mufulira refinery, operated by Mopani Copper Mines Plc, in Mufulira, Zambia, on Friday, May 6, 2022.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Soaring copper prices show no signs of slowing down, analysts say, with the red metal’s rally fueled by supply risks and improving demand prospects for energy transition metals.

Copper prices with May delivery traded at $4.323 per pound in New York as of Wednesday morning, extending gains after settling at its highest level since June 2022 in the previous session.

Copper briefly hit a high of $4.334 in intraday trading on Tuesday, reflecting its highest level since the middle of January last year.

Three-month copper prices on the London Metal Exchange traded 0.6% higher at $9,477 per metric ton.

Demand for copper is widely considered a proxy for economic health. The base metal is critically important to the energy transition ecosystem and is integral to manufacturing electric vehicles, power grids and wind turbines.

Wall Street banks are bullish on the outlook for copper prices through to the end of the year.

Earlier this week, analysts at Citi said that they believe the second secular bull market of copper this century is now underway — roughly 20 years after the first such cycle.

Citi said on Monday that it expects copper prices to trend higher over the coming months, averaging $10,000 per metric ton by the end of the year and climbing to $12,000 in 2026, according to the bank’s base-case scenario.

“Explosive price upside is possible over the next 2-3 years too, if a strong cyclical recovery occurs at any time, with prices potentially rising more than 2/3rds to $15k/t+ in this, our bull case scenario,” analysts at Citi said in a research note.

“Our $12k/t base case assumes only a small uptick in cyclical demand growth over the course of 2025 and 2026,” they added.

‘Commodity markets always self-solve’

Separately, analysts at Bank of America have raised their 2024 price target for copper to $9,321, up from its previous forecast of $8,625.

The Wall Street bank said Monday that copper was at the “at the epicentre of the energy transition, which means that the lack of mine supply growth is being felt acutely.”

“Tight concentrates availability is increasingly capping production at China’s smelters and refiners, potentially pushing consumers of refined metal back into international markets,” analysts at Bank of America said in a research note.

“At the same time, demand in the US and Europe should bounce back as economies bottom out; this, along with rising demand from the energy transition, will likely move the copper market into deficit this year,” they added.

Not everyone’s convinced copper prices will hold onto projected gains this year.

“Commodity markets always self-solve,” Colin Hamilton, commodities analyst at BMO Capital Markets, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe” on Tuesday.

“They always find ways of softening things out. If we can’t solve from the supply side, well guess what, we’ll hurt demand and that’s what inflation naturally does. That’s why we had underperformance for much of the past year,” Hamilton said.

“So, if copper gets say to let’s say four times the aluminum price, you would tend to see a bit of switching and substitution. I see some very high copper price targets out there: we could reach them temporarily, but then you would see demand adjusting in key areas.”

— CNBC’s Michael Bloom and Lee Ying Shan contributed to this report.


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