In the opinion of some analysts, the copper supply chain was already stretched “as tight as a drum,” which meant that mines, smelters and refineries had to hit their production targets in 2008 in order to match demand. However, several significant production losses so far this year have convinced Desjardins Securities that demand will outstrip supply both in 2008 and 2009.
Then there is the issue of declining inventories at metal exchanges like the LME, Comex and Shanghai, which analysts John Redstone and John Hughes said have already fallen by roughly 50 KMT so far in 2008 – the same amount they expect demand to outstrip supply by this year. “Given that there is a premium for immediate delivery, it is unlikely that metal stocks are being accumulated in non-reporting warehouses,” they told clients in a note. Total inventories, which represented 1.65 weeks of consumption at the end of 2007, are expected to fall to 1.25 by the end of 2009. Six weeks of consumption is considered normal.
The third factor the analysts pointed to is China, calling it the “motor of growth.” They expect China will provide 44% of the incremental demand for copper in both 2008 and 2009. "In spite of the impact of snowstorms and power curtailments, the Chinese economy continues to demonstrate robust growth...," they said, and noted that fixed asset investment rose by 24.3% year-over-year in the period from January to February. As a result, they are even more convinced that China will be the primary driver of a tight copper market through 2009.
Desjardins has boosted its forecast for copper prices by $0.50 to $3.50 per pound on average for 2008, and by $1 to $4 per pound for 2009. As a result, its earnings expectations and price targets for four stocks have been adjusted: