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Copper Extends Skid on Weak Chinese Data

January 3, 2019 at 19:16 by Andrew Moran

Copper futures are extending their losing skid on Thursday, driven mostly by weaker Chinese economic data. China, the world’s biggest buyer of the industrial metal, kicked off the year with disappointing manufacturing numbers. Copper’s losses were capped by a weaker US dollar.

March copper futures tumbled $0.06, or 2.3%, to $2.56 per pound at 17:49 GMT on Thursday on the Comex Division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The red metal is poised for a weekly decline of about 4%, continuing last year’s 22% drop.

On Wednesday, it was reported that the Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) dipped from 50.2 in November to 49.7 in December, lower than the initial market forecast. Anything below 50 indicates a contraction. The same survey also found that new orders and new export orders slipped last month.

The official manufacturing PMI indicated a slowdown in activity in December to the lowest level since February 2016.

China is the world’s largest consumer of industrial metals. In recent years, amid significant economic growth, Beijing purchased a lot of copper for infrastructure projects – the red metal is a major component for construction.

Last week, Reuters reported that the nation’s top copper smelters boosted their floor treatment and refining charges for the first quarter of 2019 by 2.2%. Miners pay these charges to smelters to process their ore into a refined metal, and the latest numbers suggest that higher costs suggest an ample supply in the copper concentrate market.

Meanwhile, the red metal benefited from a weaker greenback as the US dollar slipped 0.4% to 96.28. A lower buck is good for dollar-denominated commodities because it makes it cheaper for foreign investors to purchase. In 2018, the dollar had its best year since 2015, advancing about 5%.

In other metals markets, February gold futures tacked on $8.70, or 0.68%, to $1,292.80 per ounce. March silver futures edged up $0.10, or 0.65%, to $15.75 per ounce. March platinum futures slid $2.50, or 0.31%, to $801.50 an ounce. March palladium futures were flat at $1,198.90 per ounce.

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