SANTIAGO Jan. 13, (Dow Jones) - Chilean state copper commission Cochilco said Wednesday it expects copper prices to average $3.10 a pound this year and $3.20 a pound in 2011.
Due to lower-than-expected copper supply, and to a lesser extent, increased demand from China, Cochilco revised its 2010 copper price forecast of $2.70 a pound published in November last year.
Global red metal output in 2010 is expected to remain at 15.8 million metric tons, while Chile's copper production will increase 7.3% year-on-year to 5.7 million tons, Cochilco reported.
Increased Chilean output in 2010 will come mainly from BHP Billiton Ltd.'s (BHP) Escondida, the world's largest mine, which is expected to overcome its operational difficulties, and expansions at Antofagasta plc's (ANTO.LN) Pelambres mine and state copper company Corporacion Nacional de Cobre's Andina division, Ana Zuniga, research and policy planning director at Cochilco, told reporters Wednesday.
Meanwhile, global copper production in 2011 is expected to increase 3.4% to 16.3 million metric tons, and Chilean output to grow 2.8% to 5.9 million metric tons, according to Cochilco.
In 2010, the copper market will see a 308,000-ton surplus, the equivalent of 3.7 weeks of copper consumption, while in 2011 the market will change to a 146,000-ton deficit, bringing inventories to 3.1 weeks of red metal consumption.
During 2009, the copper market had a 198,000-ton surplus, equivalent to 3.4 weeks of consumption.
Copper demand worldwide is forecast to slip 0.6% in 2010 to 17.8 million tons and then rebound 6% in 2011 to 18.9 million tons.
During 2010-2011, the European Union, Japan, U.S. and South Korea will lead the increase in copper demand, while China's demand will fall as it uses the inventories it built up during 2009, Cochilco said.
Chile is not only the world's largest copper producer, accounting for nearly 35% of global output, but it's also one of the biggest molybdenum miners. The metal, found as a by-product at several copper mines and used to harden steel, will likely average between $12 and $14 a pound in 2010, Zuniga said.