Base Metals Price Outlook Economic Forecast

Base Metals Price Outlook

Trade tensions and cooling growth in China take their toll on base metal prices

Base metal prices declined for the third month in a row in September, mostly reflecting concerns about global economic growth, especially in China, which consumes around half of all base metals. Prices for base metals dropped 1.7% over the previous month in September, although this was a milder contraction than August’s 3.0% month-on-month drop.

Nickel prices marked the sharpest decline in September, plunging to the lowest price so far this year on 11 September, due to escalating trade tensions between China and the United States, concerns over China’s growth and weak steel prices. Other commodities such as lead, tin and zinc also felt the brunt of slowing Chinese growth. U.S. steel price momentum faltered in September after prices had soared to multi-year highs in recent months following the introduction of U.S. steel tariffs earlier in the year. Conversely, alumina prices continued to climb in September as supplies increasingly tighten due to the partial closure of Norsk Hydro’s Alunorte refinery in Brazil, the world’s biggest alumina plant.

Rising trade protectionism and slower growth in China will weigh on base metals’ performance this year. However, the situation should gradually improve in 2019. Our panel of analysts see base metal prices falling 2.7% year-on-year in Q4 2018 (previous edition: +0.8% yoy) before rebounding to a 3.5% year-on-year gain in Q4 2019.

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Base Metals Historical Price Data

2012  2013  2014  2015  2016  
Aluminium2020.88  1845.86  1867.48  1663.69  1604.6  
Alumina433.69  426.39  421.3  387.42  320.71  
Copper7954.23  7330.44  6863.26  5508.57  4871.3  
Nickel17522.38  15022.53  16897.92  11835.3  9596.5  
Lead2062.45  
Zinc1948.16  1911.09  2162.01  1929.03  2092.83  
Tin21199.76  22272.66  21878.75  16053.44  17960.96  
Iron Ore131.83  136.58  97.34  55.82  58.61  
Steel (USA)656.57  630.49  657.79  462.25  522.94636015326  
Steel (Europe)659.47  614.28  568.37  420.18  455.2647684751  

Note:
Aluminium prices in USD per metric ton (mt).
Alumina prices in USD per metric ton (mt).
Copper prices in USD per metric ton (mt).
Nickel prices in USD per metric ton (mt).
Lead prices in USD per metric ton (mt).
Zinc prices in USD per metric ton (mt).
Tin prices in USD per metric ton (mt).
Iron ore prices in USD per metric ton (mt).
Steel (USA) prices in USD per metric ton (mt).
Steel (Europe) prices in USD per metric ton (mt).
All prices are average of period (aop).

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