The price of copper — used in everything from computer chips and toasters to power systems and air conditioners — has fallen by nearly a third since March. Investors are selling on fears that a global recession will stunt demand for a metal that’s synonymous with growth and expansion.
You wouldn’t know it from looking at the market today, but some of the largest miners and metals traders are warning that in just a couple of years’ time, a massive shortfall will emerge for the world’s most critical metal — one that could itself hold back global growth, stoke inflation by raising manufacturing costs and throw global climate goals off course. The recent downturn and the under-investment that ensues only threatens to make it worse.
“We’ll look back at 2022 and think, ‘Oops,’” said John LaForge, head of real asset strategy at Wells Fargo. “The market is just reflecting the immediate concerns. But if you really thought about the future, you can see the world is clearly changing. It’s going to be electrified, and it’s going to need a lot of copper.”
Inventories tracked by trading exchanges are near historical lows. And the latest price volatility means that new mine output — already projected to start petering out in 2024 — could become even tighter in the near future.
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