LONDON: Copper prices climbed on Tuesday towards the record above $10,000 a tonne seen a decade ago as worries about supply disruptions in Chile due to strikes and robust demand reinforced expectations of shortages this year.
Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange was up 1% at $9,852 a tonne at 1558 GMT, a gain of 27% this year. Prices of the metal used in power and construction earlier touched $9,965, close to the all-time high of $10,190 hit in February 2011.
“Chilean port workers called a strike over pension-related issues. They are being supported by the mining unions. There is no indication of supply disruptions, but copper prices have rallied,” said Julius Baer analyst Carsten Menke.
“Chinese copper demand is set to fade against the backdrop of unfavourable demographics and the economy’s transition from investment-driven to consumption-driven growth. We do not see the copper market entering a super cycle.”
ED&F Man Capital Markets analyst Edward Meir said another reason behind copper price strength may be elections in Peru, the world’s no. 2 copper producer, where the presidential front-runner has proposed nationalising mining.
The Yangshan copper premium fell to $46.50 a tonne, its lowest since Nov. 17, indicating weakening demand from China, which accounts for about half of global demand estimated at around 24 million tonnes this year.
Surveys of purchasing managers in China’s manufacturing sector later this week and early next week will be watched closely for clues on demand prospects.
Stocks of copper in LME registered warehouses at 154,600 tonnes have fallen about 10% over the past couple of weeks.
Cancelled warrants, metal earmarked for delivery, at 53% indicate more copper will soon be leaving LME warehouses.
This and one large holding of copper warrants and cash contracts have fuelled worry about supplies on the LME market and created a premium for cash copper over the three-month contract.
Aluminium was down 0.3% at $2,396 a tonne, zinc gained 0.4% to $2,926, lead rose 0.6% to $2,092, tin climbed 0.3% to $27,145 and nickel added 1.7% to $16,935.