by Raul de Frutos on DECEMBER 7, 2015
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange hit fresh lows last month, trading as low as $4,444 a metric ton, the lowest level since May of 2009. In the face of low prices, more shutdowns were announced during the month of November but so far, they haven’t lifted prices at all.
Copper_Chart_December-2015_FNLIn early November, Glencore announced that it would reduce its copper production more than expected. The company is now aiming to cut output by 455,000 metric tons by the end of 2017, 14% up from its previously announced figures. Glencore’s cuts came after Freeport-McMoRan announced a pullback in production.
Towards the end of the month, ten leading copper producers in China announced plans to cut output by 350,000 mt in 2016. In addition, producers urged Beijing to buy up excessive supply to combat falling prices. The State Reserves Bureau already said that it would buy aluminum, nickel, indium, and zinc.
But supply cuts haven’t been big enough to make a sustainable impact on the market. Moreover, there are still manny producers unwilling to cut production despite the low prices. The head of the world’s biggest copper miner, Codelco, said in November that they won’t cut copper production as prices slump, pointing to the fact that if the company suspends production then it would be difficult to restart, so they would rather try to lower costs. Also, there is skepticism about how many of the announced cuts will actually be made and how long they will last.
In addition, refined copper output in China rose 6.8 % in the first 10 months from the previous year. Meanwhile, disappointing Chinese import data increased demand concerns in November, contributing to the slump in prices. So far, supply cuts haven’t been enough to balance the other side of the equation: Excess material, shrinking Chinese demand and a strong dollar. Prices might have to come down farther before we see a turnaround.
Prices fell worldwide. The biggest losers were in Japanese copper primary cash with an 11% decline to $4,805 per mt and an 11.11% decline in Indian copper cash prices. The Chinese copper primary cash price also fell sharply to $5,682/mt.