One Thing Missing From Copper Boom Is Buyers of Actual Metal – by Mark Burton and Susanne Barton (Bloomberg News – January 11, 2018)

The world economy is taking off, factories are humming again and copper futures prices are jumping. The one thing that’s missing is buyers of the actual metal. Evidence of the anomaly can be seen in the premiums that purchasers of physical copper pay over futures prices to cover shipping and other costs.

Typically these rise as demand grows and buyers are willing to pay extra to access supply that’s being used up at a quicker rate. Yet, even with factories running at the fastest in years, premiums have been stuck at a low level.

That’s a disconnect with the optimism in futures markets, where hedge funds have been adding to their bullish bets since the middle of December. Such wagers have helped fuel a rally in prices to their highest since early 2014.

“Certainly from a fundamental perspective, I do find it difficult to justify the copper price where it is today,” Colin Hamilton, managing director for commodities research at BMO Capital Markets, said in London.

Along with high stockpiles and a slack forward price curve with spot prices trading below futures on the London Metal Exchange, low physical premiums suggest buyers aren’t yet rushing to secure copper as factories ramp up.

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