Optimistic Base Metals Outlook Amidst China’s Economic Pressures


The intricate dance of base metals pricing continues, influenced by China’s economic stimulus efforts. A glimpse into the 24-member Politburo meeting of the Chinese Communist Party reveals intentions to support a sluggish economy.

The real estate sector is in focus, along with bolstering consumption and managing local government debt. While an eagerly anticipated large-scale stimulus package remains elusive, the growing supply of metals from China casts a shadow over aluminium prices.

The first half of 2023 witnessed a 3.4% increase in China’s primary aluminium production, contributing to a bearish medium-term stance on the metal.

Copper Shines Amidst Currency Shifts and Stimulus Measures

Copper prices bask in an optimistic forecast as the US dollar’s weakening aligns with the Federal Reserve’s rate hike cycle conclusion.

China’s envisioned growth surge, bolstered by potential stimulus measures, adds to the positive narrative.

Efforts to lower mortgage rates could rejuvenate homebuying in major Chinese cities, soothing property sector concerns. Speculative positioning on Comex, featuring a net short stance, hints at an unanticipated copper price surge, presenting savvy investors with a strategic opportunity.

Green Economy Propels Copper’s Resilience

Long-term prospects for copper remain robust, propelled by mounting demand fuelled by renewable energy.

Often referred to as “Doctor Copper” due to its close tie to infrastructure and economic health, the metal experienced setbacks due to US banking concerns, European economic worries, and Chinese economic slowdowns.

However, as the green economy accelerates, copper is poised to decouple from traditional indicators, rebounding in the upcoming months. Forecasts range from Goldman Sachs’s bullish $11,000 per tonne to analysts not predicting a dip below $8,000 per tonne.

Lead’s Balancing Act and Heatwave-Driven Demand

Global lead markets showcase equilibrium, as demonstrated by rangebound lead prices. Nevertheless, regional imbalances persist, with the world outside China experiencing a deficit reliant on Chinese exports.

Recent events, including China’s auto market-focused stimulus and heatwaves impacting lead-acid batteries, provide a bullish outlook for lead demand.

Heatwaves adversely affect lead-acid car batteries, intensifying demand for replacements. With older batteries more vulnerable, extreme heat exacerbates the issue, enhancing demand for new batteries.

Navigating Nickel’s Uncertain Trajectory

Nickel’s resilience in July hasn’t dispelled medium-to-long-term projections of higher prices. Amidst the growing demand for Li-ion batteries, data suggests a cautious stance.

China’s preference for nickel-free lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries has seen significant growth, impacting nickel demand. Despite a temporary upturn, the potential for summer lows lingers, driven by this shift in battery preference.

Tin’s Promising Surge Ahead

Despite recent lateral trading, tin prices are poised to exceed $30,000 per tonne in the coming months.

The anticipation stems from market resilience influenced by the LME tin market’s significant backwardation, a pending mining ban in Myanmar, and potential depletion of Shanghai Futures Exchange’s tin stocks. With a pronounced price escalation likely, persistent supply constraints and China’s Q4 2023 economic acceleration play key roles.

Zinc’s Reassessment Amidst Economic Slowdown

Chinese smelters’ high utilization rates prompt a fundamental revision of global demand growth projections.

The revised outlook reflects an economic slowdown, projecting a 164,000-tonne surplus in 2023, a stark shift from a previous 67,000-tonne deficit forecast. While early oversupply may already be priced in, a further annual surplus looms for 2024, curbing zinc price upside potential in the long term.

Conclusion: Adapting to the Base Metals Symphony

Navigating the intricate landscape of base metals demands an understanding of China’s economic maneuvers, supply-demand dynamics, and emerging industry trends.

While challenges and uncertainties persist, the resilience of the base metals market remains steadfast, making strategic investments and decisions pivotal for success in this ever-evolving arena.