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The outlook for copper in 2022

Copper reached record highs in 2021, but can it follow up last year’s stellar performance?
The outlook for copper in 2022 The outlook for copper in 2022 The outlook for copper in 2022 The outlook for copper in 2022 The outlook for copper in 2022

Most analysts agree copper could face short-term headwinds due to closures relating to energy shortages and China's upcoming holidays and the Beijing Olympics.

Copper reached an all-time high of more than US$10,500 per tonne in 2021 and reached just above $10,000/t overnight.

Citi sees copper pulling back to $8800/t in the short-term and recommended buying any dip below $9000/t.

"The degree of subsequent recovery depends in large part on Chinese growth and the degree of 1Q22 policy easing, but even without a major Chinese stimulus we do see prices recovering to average $9500/t during 2H22," it said.

The bank's bull case (20% probability) for copper is $10,875/t.

"Over the medium to long-term, we maintain our view that copper is entering a supercycle - defined as at least five years of high producer margins, and that copper's price range has shifted up from $4500-7500/t over the past decade to $7500-10,500/t through 2025," Citi said.

Dutch bank ING believes supply chain bottlenecks due to the outrageously infectious Omicron variant of COVID-19 will impact copper supply, which was partially reflected in the rise in longer-term cathode premiums that major suppliers offered to Chinese buyers for 2022.

"In such cases, regional market imbalances will prompt import arbitrage," it said.

Like Citi, ING said tailwinds on the macro front could become headwinds early in the year.

"This would include a stronger dollar and higher real rate along the US Federal Reserve's tightening cycle," it said.

"Nevertheless, the low visible inventories may shield it from sharp price correction.

"While we anticipate that prices will slip moderately in 2022 from highs [in 2021], the supply constraints over the long term and its appeal to investors as a key green metal are setting the stage for above long-term average prices over the next few years."

Canaccord Genuity sees "significant support" for copper prices heading into 2022.

"We enter the year with historically low available metal inventories, strong expected demand driven by global supply chain restocking, and rising supply risks in Latin America," it said this week.

"While the Chinese economy has no doubt slowed, we believe the focus on copper-intensive decarbonisation initiatives and high-tech manufacturing remain supportive of copper demand in that country, and the possibility of stimulative activity by the Chinese Central Bank ahead of the 20th Party Congress in October remains high.

"Finally, we believe global inflation and strong emerging market currencies will remain a tailwind in 2022, while the probability of an aggressive US rate-hiking cycle declines over the year as economic growth normalises."

It lifted its price forecast for 2022 by 7% to $10,050/t, or $4.56 per pound.

Goldman Sachs is clearly the most bullish on copper, which should be no surprise given it released a report in April 2021 suggesting copper is "the new oil" due to its critical role in achieving Paris climate goals.

It expects copper to average more than $11,880/t this year - which would see the red metal reach all-time highs - on its way to $15,000/t later this decade.

BANK

2022 FORECAST

ANZ

$9,770

Argonaut

$9,092

Bell Potter

$9,480

Canaccord Genuity

$10,050

Citi

$9,250

Goldman Sachs

$11,880

Macquarie

$8,750

S&P Global Ratings

$8,500