Copper prices could rise to $20,000 a ton within three years if inventories dry up, Bank of America says

Copper prices could rise to $20,000 a ton within three years if inventories dry up, Bank of America says
A worker inspects batches of processed copper at Mutanda Mining Sarl, Democratic Republic of the CongoPer-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images Europe
  • If copper inventories run out, the metal could exceed $20,000 a ton by 2024, Bank of America said.
  • Copper prices have surged recently and topped $10,000 for the first time in a decade last week.
  • Commodities prices have been accelerating, leading to debate about a new 'supercycle'.

Copper prices could rise above $20,000 a ton by 2024 if stocks deplete, Bank of America said in a research note on Friday.

Stock levels now are comparable to those seen 15 years ago and cover less than a month's demand for copper, the note said.

"Of course, this fundamental backdrop is so concerning because the global economy is just now starting to open up and reflate. Linked to that, we forecast copper market deficits, and further inventory declines, this year and next", Bank of America researchers wrote.
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Copper demand is rising as the metal is a key element in many growing industrial sectors. It is for example needed to build electric car batteries, demand for which has been growing as the economy moves towards net-zero, and for electrical wiring in chips, which are also facing a shortage. The global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic also contributes to higher demand.

Just last week, copper topped $10,000 a ton, a decade-long high that was just shy of record peaks.

Based on the low level of warehouse inventories of copper, Bank of America says prices could rise to $13,000 a ton in the next few months.
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Given the length of time it takes to expand existing mines, or build new ones, the industry must react by utilizing copper scrap and feeding it back into the supply chain, according to the research note. Its calculations show that otherwise, prices could accelerate to over $20,000 a ton in the next three years.

The report predicts that scrap supply could grow to 6,700 tons by 2025, an increase of almost 60% compared to 2016. Copper substitutions may also grow in importance if stocks deplete and prices rise, especially due to the critical role copper plays in the electrification of the economy. Bank of America predicts this could lead to reduced use of copper in products and the development of new engineering approaches that employ an alternative metal.
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Copper is not the only commodity that has seen the price surge in recent months. Lumber for example hit record highs last month, driven by the economy reopening.

Talks of a new commodities "supercycle" have developed off the back of this. Indicators for a supercycle include a weaker dollar and policies focused on growing commodities-heavy areas such as environmentally friendly infrastructure and clean energy.

Other investors and researchers have argued that bull markets are a normal occurrence and that we are not in the early stages of a supercycle.
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