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Mining cycle may have peaked, outlook bleak: Global Finance Report

London — Political uncertainties, which are retarding business decisions, have led to a current "bleak picture" for the mining sector, which may have passed a recent peak, according to Mining Journal's Global Finance Report, published this week.

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Financial market and sectorial indicators make it look increasingly likely that the mining upturn of 2016 and 2017 peaked early in 2018, according to the report, being published for the second year.

"Headwinds remain in the shape of a weaker China, which is also facing down a trade war with the US, along with macro data that suggests the cycle is topping out," the report said.

Even so, some two-thirds of the investors canvassed for the report remained bullish at the time of writing and expected better returns this year than last, the report noted, adding that the seasonal weakness around Christmas was expected to last into 1Q 2019.

Following two years of an "undeniable return to form for the mining space", commodity prices driving the recovery stalled in 2018 in the face of macro-economic headwinds, the Global Finance Report stated. The headwinds have been driven by an escalating trade war that has accelerated China's slowdown, it said.

Some heat was last year lost from the battery metals space, as a clearer supply-side picture emerged, and fears over substitution took the edge off cobalt, it said.

"Only modern commodity villains, coal and iron ore, showed resilience," the report said.

Momentum in mine financing slowed in public equity markets last year except for in Australia, where the ASX and commercial lenders increased their activity, it said.

"London was flat, while Toronto-listed equities were outgunned for the speculative dollar by cryptocurrencies and marijuana," it said.

"Finance has so far nor returned in any real strength for resources firms, which means that exploration and development efforts have lacked the intensity required to feed the project pipeline," it said.

The mining industry debuted 43 resources companies across global markets in 2018, up from 37 in 2017, due to more listings in Australia. However, the total value of new listings was off 21% to $691 million, according to Mining Journal's data.

Annual activity was also front-ended with a strong end to 2017 and start to 2018, tailing off toward the middle of the year, according to the report.

Secondary financial raisings painted a similar picture, with the ASX the only exchange to increase the volume of capital raisings facilitated.

Worldwide, 1,177 capital raisings were completed by the mining sector in 2018, for a total of $5.25 billion - a massive 62% down from the $13.81 billion raised in 2017 in 1,274 operations, the report said.

"Base and precious metals continue to be the most popular (mineral) commodities, though interest in battery metals has been maintained and shows few signs of softening going into the next 12 months," the report said."Uranium and mineral sands, meanwhile, emerged from their respective depths, as the survey showed a significant increase in investors looking for exposure."

--Diana Kinch, newsdesk@spglobal.com

--Edited by James Leech, newsdesk@spglobal.com