Industrial metals have been on somewhat of a bumpy road so far in 2013, though recent price movements in the copper market have made investors think twice about this corner of the commodities world. Last week, copper futures soared after several encouraging reports from China, the world’s second largest economy and one of the largest consumers of the metal, helped boost optimisim for copper demand. Though copper’s outlook has improved, there is one industrial metal that has not benefited from the rally: tin [for more industrial metals news and analysis subscribe to our free newsletter].
Copper is among the most practical commodities in the world, as the industrial sector relies heavily on the material for a number of uses. Not only does it have wide applications in the industrial world, but the economic space as well. With the nickname “Dr. Copper,” the reddish-brown metal is often used as a proxy for the global economy as a whole, precisely because of the demand created by the industrial world [for more copper news and analysis subscribe to our free newsletter].
Earnings season for Q1 2013 is well on its way, with several bellwether commodity stocks already reporting better-than-expected results. Agribusiness giant Monsanto Company (MON) posted earnings that significantly beat out estimates: earnings rose 22%, while profits came in at $1.48 billion. Meanwhile, Halliburton (HAL) reported an unprofitable quarter, though the company added $1 billion to reserves tied to litigation involving the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. Barrick Gold (ABX) also beat analyst expectations, clocking in an EPS of $0.86 [for more oil news and analysis subscribe to our free newsletter].
Metals across the board have suffered steep losses in recent days, with gold’s alarming 9% one-day drop rattling the markets and investor confidence. And while gold remains as one of traders’ top concerns, another metal’s volatile movements has been raising some red flags. Yesterday, copper futures for April delivery tumbled 3.6% to $3.1880 a pound, marking the lowest level since October 2011. The metal has almost dropped 20% from its most recent high, so the probability of copper entering bear territory is quite likely [for more copper news and analysis subscribe to our free newsletter].
With Alcoa (AA) kicking off earnings season last week, investors will spend the next few weeks combing through quarterly statements from their favorite commodity firms. Though Alcoa beat EPS estimates and saw a healthy net income, revenue fell short, leaving a somewhat mixed feeling for the stock. What is perhaps more important than the reports themselves is the particular outlook that each company provides; 2013 has been anything but kind to commodities and investors will pay extra attention to forecasts for the near future [for more commodity news and analysis subscribe to our free newsletter].
We have previously talked about the historical use and value of gold and silver, and now we turn to copper. Right off the bat, copper is a very different metal. Like gold, it’s easy to work with for relatively simple tools and technologies, but unlike gold, copper was (and is) quite common and easy to find. Copper has been mined and used for at least 10,000 years and likely vied with meteoric iron as the metal most used in tools [for more copper news and analysis subscribe to our free newsletter].
As the main culprit responsible for the credit crisis and resulting Great Recession, the U.S. housing market has spent much of the last few years in the doldrums. The combination of shaky mortgage loans, falling home values, and rising foreclosure rates really took a toll on the overall sector. Over the last few years, housing-related stocks have seen their share prices dwindle as a lack of available credit, and general deleveraging has prevented many from home ownership. However, recent data may support a turnaround is in the works for the all-important sector.
In Ben Bernanke’s testimony on the Semiannual Monetary Policy Report before the Senate Banking Committee this week, the Fed Chairman signaled that the central bank would continue its stimulus policies, citing that the economic landscape still possesses several red flags. And while this may have quelled fears that the Fed would wind down or scale back its massive bond-buying program earlier-than-expected, investors still remain on edge [For more commodity news and analysis subscribe to our free newsletter].
The industrial metal space has been struggling to gain traction as of late, as a cloudy forecast for the global economy has left these commodities in limbo. But that was not before many made strong runs in the past decade. According to Bloomberg, “six primary metals more than tripled in the 10 years to 2012.” These highs have started warding off a number of buyers as many fear a slowdown in key markets like China and other emerging economies [for more industrial metal news and analysis subscribe to our free newsletter].
Due to better governance practices and a commodity boom, Brazil’s economy has enjoyed incredible growth over the past 20 years. Brazil is now the largest economy in Latin America and the sixth or seventh largest economy depending upon the metric used. On the other hand, while Brazil’s GDP per capita has improved, it still ranks at a relatively low 64th in the world – meaning that it is a large economy, but not an especially wealthy one yet (at least not uniformly so). While Brazil has made a concerted effort to build up its manufacturing sector (and reduce the risk of being trapped as a commodity-driven economy), minerals, energy and agriculture are still very significant to the Brazilian economy, as well as the larger global economy [for more commodity news and analysis subscribe to our free newsletter].