London — Rising industrial demand in China and declining mining output will help support copper prices next year, CRU Group research analyst Vanessa Davidson said Monday.
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During a presentation at the LME Seminar, held annually in conjunction with LME Week, Davidson said she expected global copper demand to grow 2.9% next year. Historically, copper demand grows about 2% each year.
Demand is being driven by China, which is trying to move away from investment-led growth to more consumer-led growth. Davidson said.
Demand from most end-use sectors in China is expected to remain firm, resulting in copper demand growth of about 3.5% next year, she said.
Tightness in copper scrap supply is also expected to boost Chinese demand for refined copper next year, she added. China severely restricted the flow of copper scrap imports this year after implementing import bans on "Category 7" waste material early in the year.
Copper prices are also likely to be supported by declining mine output, Davidson said.
Global mine output is expected to grow only 1.2% next year compared with about 1.8% this year, she said. "The key factor behind that is a lack of new projects," she said.
No large-scale projects above 100,000 mt/year came online last year and the only such project to come online this year is Toquepala mine expansion in Peru, she said.
"We don't have a growth from new projects coming in 2019. There are some projects due to start up in 2019, but it's important to note that the two largest ones -- the Chiquicamata underground [Chile] and Grasberg block-cave [Indonesia] -- are both replacement projects," she noted.
However, refined output is expected to grow 2.9% next year, as evidenced by the declining supply of blister and concentrate. Chinese smelter and refined output is also expect to continue growing, Davidson said.
As a result, the global refined copper market is expected to end next year with a small surplus of about 100,000 mt, she said.
Taking into account those factors, CRU expects LME three-months copper prices to average $6,420/mt next year, Davidson said.
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