Nick Pickens, Woodmac’s Research Director – Copper, says softening demand, stronger supply and weaker sentiment point to a year-on-year decline in average prices across the metals and mining industries in 2023:
“The construction sector, a key area for iron ore, steel and base metals, will be a drag on global demand, with the Chinese real estate market in particular remaining sluggish.
“Meanwhile, supplies of copper, aluminium, lead, zinc, iron ore and steel, among others will all post higher growth rates than in 2022. The production of battery materials – nickel, cobalt and lithium – will continue to forge ahead, following double digit-growth in 2022.”
Pickens does point out that there are some upside potential on the demand side next year, but “overall, we think the prevailing tendency in prices will be downwards”:
“Inflationary pressures are showing signs of easing, and so are supply-chain constraints. That could mean the global economic slowdown is less severe than expected. A recovery in the automotive sector and in low-carbon energy could help offset some of the demand weakness in other consumer-led segments.
Copper price direction is down
FocusEconomics, a Barcelona-based independent research company, says demand for copper and industrial metals should stay fairly limp during the first half of next year “as global interest rates peak and China’s economy likely stays weighed down by the property crash and covid-19.”
The consensus forecast for average copper prices in 2023 is below current levels at around $7,660 per tonne, according to FocusEconomics with the lowest prediction at just $5,430 per tonne and the top end at an uninspiring $8,775 per tonne.
In 2024 prices are expected to average $8,000 per tonne – with the most bearish prediction pegged at below $5,000 and the highest $10,750 per tonne.