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(Bloomberg) -- Long copper, short iron may prove to be one the commodity trades of the year. While both are staples of the raw materials world for infrastructure and consumer products, they’re taking very different paths in 2017 as the red metal surges and the material used in steel retreats.
Three-month copper burst above $7,000 a metric ton on the London Metal Exchange this week to the highest since 2014. It’s gained 29 percent this year, aided by global growth, disruptions at mines, and expectations for a deficit. There’s extra luster from the fervor surrounding electric vehicles.
Contrast that with iron ore’s relatively miserable lot. Spot ore with 62 percent content has lost 20 percent after a switchback ride that’s seen it dip into the $50s a dry ton. It’s been hurt by persistent growth in low-cost supply and concern about the outlook for demand even as China buys record quantities.
The divergence is helping shape miners’ share performances. Freeport-McMoRan Inc., the largest publicly traded copper producer, has climbed 16 percent this year, while Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., the country’s number-three iron ore shipper, is 16 percent lower.
Bullish outlooks for copper abound, including from Chinese investors and producers. MMG Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Jerry Jiao told an audience this month the mining industry isn’t currently capable of meeting rising demand requirements from China, according to an address in Melbourne.
(Adds outlook from MMG in final paragraph.)
--With assistance from Jasmine Ng
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