Copper price rallies 6%

September 8, 2015

New York (Sept 8) Trading on Friday in copper for delivery in December soared nearly 6% at the open, jumping to a seven-week high following the announcement of steep production cuts by Glencore and a surge in Chinese concentrate imports.

Copper changed hands for $2.448 per pound or around $5,390 a tonne, up 5.9% from yesterday's close of $2.312.

The red metal has recovered strongly from six-year lows struck late August, but remains down 14% year to date after a 16% fall in 2014. The metal peaked in February 2011 at $4.58 a pound or more than $10,000 a tonne.

Glencore (LON:GLEN), the world's number four producer of the metal, on Monday announced plans to suspend production at its copper mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, in a move that it says will take 400,000 tonnes out of the market.

"It just goes to show how far we have gone down for the industry to withstand further falls in the commodity prices"

Some 40% of the Swiss commodities trader's earnings come from copper. Glencore's move comes on the heels of cutbacks from US-based Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX) which vies with Chile's state-owned Codelco as the world number one copper miner in terms of output.

Copper was also boosted after trade data from top consumer China showed  a huge improvement in country's imports of copper concentrate.

While imports of refined and semi-finished copper products were flat in August imports of concentrate surged nearly 20% from a year ago and 18.6% from the previous month. Year to date concentrate imports are up 12% to 8.12 million tonnes, while refined copper imports are down 8%.

Senior metals and mining research analyst at Sanford Bernstein, Paul Gait told CNBC following Glencore's announcement that "it just goes to show how far we have gone down for the industry to withstand further falls in the commodity prices":

"This is close to the bottom of the cycle for commodities; it certainly feels like that from my perspective, signs today are indicative of that," Gait said."

I think the pop today is really in relation to China and expectations of continued stimulus

Others were not so encouraging with Philip Petursson, managing director for capital markets and strategy at Manulife Asset Management telling Reuters that "at this point I would say you'd still want to be cautious on the miners as well as the energy sector:"

"I think the pop today is really in relation to China and expectations of continued stimulus. How much that helps to prop up the metals is subject to pretty wide debate. We're still in a supply glut situation."

The advance in the copper price led to widespread share price gains among copper mining majors with Glencore jumping for a second day for a 12% rally since Monday's open in London.

Freeport investors returning from a long weekend in North America chased the counter 6.4% higher in afternoon dealings with more than 31 million shares in the owner of the iconic Grasberg mine exchanging hands.

BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP) also recovered with shares in the world's number one miner adding 4.7% in New York. The Melbourne-based company which relies on copper for around a fifth of its earnings is now worth $93 billion.

The world's second largest miner based on revenue Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) which is less dependent on copper than Glencore or BHP gained 5.1% in New York recovering from steep falls on Friday. The Anglo-Australian giant is worth $65 billion in New York.

The world's fifth largest miner Anglo American (LON:AAL) was the best performer on the day, surging nearly 7.6% in New York. Canada's Teck Resources (TSX:TCK) also made huge strides with shares in the coal and base metal company adding 8.3%.

Southern Copper Corp (NYSE:SCCO) increased 5.5% in value while investors in fellow South American copper producer Antofagasta's (LON:ANTO) celebrated a 9.9% surge in New York.


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