Will the base metals rally last?

The price of copper, hit $7,000 a tonne last week, driven by soaring Chinese demand. Other metals are also on the way up. But can it continue?

Doctor Copper is in fine form, reports Tom Howard in The Times. The red metal hit $7,000 a tonne last week, a 28-month high. Used in everything from “electric vehicles to telecoms to water pipes”, it is a key gauge of the health of the global economy. Copper has gained more than 10% this year. 

The principal cause has been soaring Chinese demand, says Andy Home on Reuters. Smelters are racing to keep up with a construction and infrastructure boom triggered by a stimulus. By October China had already imported more refined copper than it did during the whole of last year. Bulls are also banking on higher US demand if Biden passes green spending plans, adds Howard. Meanwhile, civil strife in Chile (see page 12) is contributing to supply disruptions; the country accounts for 30% of global copper supply. 

Other metals are also shining, writes Will Horner in The Wall Street Journal. Tin has hit a 15-month high. Aluminium had lagged its peers thanks to a “glut” of stockpiles but is now rising. Close to 18-month highs, the metal has been lifted by robust global car demand and speculators banking on a catch-up rally. But don’t bet on an “out-and-out bull run”, cautions Capital Economics. Beyond China, the metals demand outlook remains shaky. The rally may have a bit further to run from here, but by 2022 ebbing Chinese stimulus could see prices heading back down.

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