By Eric Onstad and Ananya Bajpai
LONDON/BENGALURU (Reuters) – Analysts have pared price forecasts for and other industrial metals as supply expands while demand in top metals consumer China remains muted, a Reuters poll showed.
Copper prices have been range-bound in recent months after a January slide from their highest in more than seven months and a May rebound from a slump below $8,000 a metric ton.
Upbeat sentiment on the post-pandemic reopening of China propelled gains early in the year, but investors later dumped industrial metals after tepid economic progress by the world’s second-biggest economy.
“Copper is heading into a soft patch as mine supplies ramp up. Chinese demand is not strong enough yet to stop prices from falling back,” said Dan Smith, head of research at Amalgamated Metal Trading.
For the first five months of the year, the global market was in a surplus of 287,000 metric tons, having been in a 74,000 ton deficit in the same period last year, the International Copper Study Group said.
The cash copper contract on the London Metal Exchange (LME) is expected to average $8,450 a metric ton in the fourth quarter, a median forecast of 26 analysts showed.
That is 7% weaker than the forecast in the previous quarterly poll and 1.5% down from Wednesday’s closing price of $8,577.25.
Analysts forecast a copper surplus this year of 111,000 metric tons, with oversupply rising to 188,000 tons next year.
ALUMINIUM RAMPS UP IN YUNNAN
Prices for aluminium were supported early in the year by cuts to output in China’s southwestern Yunnan province after reduced hydropower capacity triggered curbs on power usage, helping to lift prices to a seven-month peak in January.
However, the power curbs have now been relaxed and smelters in Yunnan have begun to ramp up production, an analyst who visited the region told Reuters this month.
“Resuming output in Yunnan province during this summer will definitely put pressure on the aluminium price,” said independent analyst Goran Djukanovic.
LME cash aluminium is expected to average $2,308 a metric ton in the fourth quarter, down 8% from the previous poll’s forecast.
Analysts expect a market deficit this year of 191,750 metric tons, dropping to 66,000 tons in 2024.
Nickel prices, meanwhile, have registered the heaviest losses among LME metals this year, sliding 27% largely because of rising output in top producer Indonesia.
The Asian country mainly produces nickel pig iron (NPI), which has lower nickel content than refined nickel, but Chinese companies in Indonesia are converting NPI furnaces to produce higher-grade metal.
“Against the backdrop of continued robust Indonesian production, which should to some extent also translate into higher class 1 nickel supply, we do see downside potential for the nickel price,” said Thu Lan Nguyen at Commerzbank (ETR:).
The main use for nickel is in stainless steel, but the metal’s biggest growth area is for electric vehicle batteries.
Analysts expect LME cash nickel prices to average $20,000 a metric ton in the fourth quarter, down 11% from the previous poll.
They expect the global nickel market to show a surplus of 199,000 metric tons this year and 150,000 tons in 2024.
by : Reuters