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Zinc shining



Brad Ricks

Thursday, January 20, 2005



AUSTRALIAN zinc producers have enjoyed a strong run on the ASX with both spot and three-month prices for the base metal on the London Metal Exchange (LME) reaching seven-year highs.


According to media reports, the spot zinc price on the LME was up 2.3% to US57.3c per pound, while the three-month price gained 2.1% to US57.7c/lb.


The improved prices lent credence to predictions made earlier this month by Deutsche Bank analysts that zinc would be the standout performer amongst base metals in 2005.


Zinc's hot run has taken Australian miners like Kagara Zinc and Perilya along for the ride.


Kagara shares have shot up from 90c on December 16 to currently trade at $1.09, while Perilya moved from 75c on December 20 to trade at 96c today.


Perilya produced 282,400t of zinc in concentrate at its Broken Hill operation during the 2004 financial year, while Kagara is producing about 81,000t of zinc concentrate per annum at its Mt Garnet project in North Queensland.


Further up the scale, one of the world's largest zinc producers, Australian-based Zinifex, has watched its share price increase from $2.07 on December 13 to a current price of $2.63.


Zinifex, the restructured public vehicle for failed miner Pasminco, operates the world-class Century mine in Queensland which produces over 500,000t of zinc in concentrate per annum.


It also owns and operates the Rosebery mine in Tasmania, a medium-sized underground mine, which produces about 81,000t of zinc in concentrate per annum.




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Though Zinc and Copper have had most of the attention this week, Tin staged somewhat of a bounce last night on the LME after a sharp fall in December.


It is worth noting that Tin is now at short term resistance and a break of 7800 should see Tin gain some traction the next few weeks.

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Copper Set to Drop??


Copper Drops in London on Speculation Smelter Supply Will Grow


Sept. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Copper fell in London on speculation supplies of the metal will grow as companies such as Vedanta Resources Plc and Jiangxi Copper Co. expand production capacity.


Copper producers have increased output to meet demand for the metal used in plumbing and wiring. Jiangxi, China's biggest copper producer, said last month it boosted first-half output 17 percent. London-based Vedanta, the largest copper producer in India, started its Tuticorin smelter in April.


``We are bearish on copper because we expect the smelter bottleneck to ease and demand growth to remain weak,'' Heath Jansen, Craig Sainsbury and Thomas Wrigglesworth, London-based analysts at Citigroup Inc., wrote in a Sept. 3 e-mailed report. Bloomberg

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CAPE TOWN (Business Day) -- The global iron-ore market should be able to find room for a significant new entrant by 2010 despite the significant increase in capacity from the major producers, according to the latest iron-ore report from Canaccord Capital Corporation.


In the past 14 years China has been the main source of growth in demand for iron ore. Chinese demand grew about 21% a year in that period compared with a 1% increase in demand from the rest of the world.


Canaccord expects China will be the main contributor to growth in iron-ore demand in future, but this will be at the expense of demand elsewhere.


China is expanding its domestic supply of iron ore, but even if it expands to 131-million tonnes of iron ore by next year there will be room for a producer of about 30-million tonnes a year.


If China does not expand production above last yearÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¾Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s levels, there could be room in the market for an additional 50-million tonnes a year of new production by 2010. Niche offerings from new entrants should easily find buyers, the report says.


Canaccord expects crude steel production to reach 1,321-million tonnes a year by 2010, 3.8% higher than last year, and that by 2010 China will account for 38% of global steel production.


By 2010 demand for imported iron ore will be 903-million tonnes, representing growth of 5.5% a year.


While iron-ore prices have more than doubled in the past two years, Canaccord expects them to decline in the next four years. This still means prices will be 12% to 42% higher than they were in 1992.


Assuming the major iron-ore producers deliver their expansion projects on time, the iron-ore market should remain tight until 2008. But there are considerable risks that these projects will not come on stream as scheduled, and that China will not expand production of iron ore at the maximum level.


There are major expansion projects under way at BHP Billiton [NYSE:BHP], Samarco, Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) [NYSE:RIO], Casa de Pedra (CSN), Rio Tinto [NYSE:RTP] and Kumba.


BHP Billiton expects to expand total capacity at its Western Australian operations by more than 40-million tonnes a year by 2008. Samarco, owned 50-50 by BHP Billiton and CVRD, is considering a 7-million-tonnes-a-year expansion at Ponto Ubu in Brazil to bring capacity up to 21-million tonnes a year by 2008.


CVRD has capacity to increase its production of iron ore to 287-million tonnes a year from 211-million last year, Canaccord says.


These are aggressive targets, requiring rapid infrastructure and mine planning.


Also in Brazil, CSN plans to increase production to 40-million tonnes a year by 2007 from 16-million last year.


Rio Tinto plans to increase total production from its Western Australian operations to 176-million tonnes a year in 2007 from 100-million in 2001. The expansion projects are already under way.


Kumba plans to increase production from Sishen to 50-million tonnes a year from 34-million now through using current waste material and some new material.


Other expansion, such as developing Sishen South, will depend on the export channel capacity available in SA.



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DJ Comex Copper Review:Retreats Modestly On Long Liquidation





Liquidation pushed high-grade copper futures modestly lower in New York

Wednesday, with traders and analysts characterizing the market as range-bound

at the moment.


The most-active December copper contract settled down 140 points at $1.6470

per pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.


The futures came into the session with a softer tone. Traders reported

liquidation in both Comex and London Metal Exchange dealings.


A Comex trader commented that the market's inability to build on last week's

$1.6910 contract high in the December futures may have encouraged some longs to

exit and book profits.


"One thing I've noticed is the market is not as frenetic as it had been and

the volume has slowed down a little bit," said Bill O'Neill, one of the

principals with LOGIC Advisors.


"There are some conflicting things. LME stocks are up, but there is some talk

on the Comex that we could see some stock reductions there. So they are kind of

offsetting each other."


London Metal Exchange warehouse stockpiles climbed another 1,700 metric tons

to a 10-month high of 71,150, according to data released overnight. The most

recent Comex stocks data, released late Tuesday afternoon, were up 20 short

tons to 9,626.


"The market is in kind of a state of neutrality at the moment," said O'Neill.

"I think it's expensive. But I have to say it's holding in very well in this

little mini correction it's having. It certainly doesn't look like it's about

to collapse."


A trader commented that there is a general reluctance to try to push the

market much lower, since exchange inventories remain historically low despite

recent builds. In fact, he said, some speculators might even be using dips as a

buying opportunity.


Not many participants "are giving in just yet," he said.


"We're range-bound right back where we were a week ago," said another.


O'Neill noted that the funds have continued to prop up prices lately.


"Interestingly enough, yesterday there was fund buying over at the LME," he

said. "You see some liquidation and some hedge selling. But the funds still

seem to have an interest in this market and are keeping prices in a reasonably

firm trading pattern."


For now, said O'Neill, December copper appears to be range-bound between

$1.62 and $1.66.


"I think we could go back and forth between that area for a while here," he

said. "No one is really sure of the impact of (Hurricane) Katrina."


Some analysts have suggested the devastation and higher energy prices that

resulted from the storm could slow U.S. economic growth and thus copper demand.

Others, however, look for increased copper demand down the road due to a

massive reconstruction effort.



Settlements (ranges include overnight and day sessions):

Sept (HGU05) $1.7210; down 1.50c; Range $1.7175-$1.7400

Dec (HGZ05) $1.6470; down 1.40c; Range $1.6405-$1.6650



-By Allen Sykora, Dow Jones Newswires; 541-318-8765;





(END) Dow Jones Newswires


09-07-05 1344ET


Copyright © 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


DJ info: 82100





2005-09-07 17:44:02 UTC




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Metals craze boosts prices far into future - BarCap

The feeding frenzy for metals has driven speculators to snap up contracts more than five years ahead, boosting prices far into the future, Barclays Capital said yesterday.


With three-month futures for many London Metal Exchange (LME) products at or near multi-year highs, flagship copper is at record peaks, fuelled by strong demand from growing economies like China and fund buying.


"With prices so high, market participants are reluctant to buy three-months contracts so consumers and funds are looking to buy further out along the forward curve," Ingrid Sternby, base metals analyst at the investment bank, told Reuters in an interview.


Investors are buying forward contracts as far ahead as 63 months in the future - the maximum term traded on the LME - in search of bargains.


"This means that consumers will have to live with a much higher price environment than in the past," Sternby said.


63-month copper futures contracts have risen from $1 833 a ton in June 2004 to $2 438 this week, up 33%.


In the same period three-months prices have risen 45% to a record $3 725, but Sternby said volatility in far forward dates was usually far below nearby dates.


"This takes some of the heat out of the nearby part of the forward curve and we are seeing far forward prices well supported or moving higher.


Sternby said metals markets, along with energy, had a similar fundamental structure - under-investment in new supply and higher trend rates in demand growth.


Sternby said there had been a huge investor interest in commodities and she saw no signs of a slow down.


"Many of these investors are looking at commodities to diversify portfolios. A lot of that money is in for the long term and is unlikely to be removed due to short term fluctuations."


She said investors were becoming more sophisticated, looking at markets where nearby prices are higher than further forward known as backwardation.


That means investments are self financing - lending prompt metal to the market at a premium, which can be set against storage and insurance costs.


"Investors are looking more and more at markets that are in backwardation. Until recently the main investor focus has been in broad commodity indices such as the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index, heavily geared towards energy."


"But now we are seeing more interest in structured notes, more geared toward the base metals," she said.



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Some nickel projects may struggle as prices fall


Source: Dow Jones



See also:

Nickel Board


Nickel Catalog


Global zinc prices, which peaked in May this year, appear to be entering a long bear phase that could last well into 2008, Citigroup analyst Thomas Price said Thursday.


This could threaten the financial viability of some of the higher cost projects slated to come on line over the next few years, Price said.


But major producers said they would go ahead with most of the proposed projects that are based on lower, more realistic prices than currently available to producers.


At a nickel conference in Sydney Thursday, Price outlined Citigroup's bearish outlook for the metal, with prices set to continue easing from May's peak of US$8 a pound to an average US$6.63/lb this year.


The long-term outlook is even bleaker, Price said, with prices likely to average US$5/lb next year, US$4/lb in 2007 and between US$3.50/lb and US$4/lb in 2008.


The view is based on continued cutbacks in global stainless steel production, in which nickel is mostly used, and increasing scrap consumption.


The anticipated decline will bring nickel back to long-term trends after prices doubled over the last three years on surging China-led demand.


"Current producers are still going to make money from those prices but projects that still have to come on line would have to question their viability at those lower levels," he told Dow Jones Newswires on the sidelines of the conference.


Larger projects such as Inco Ltd.'s (N) Goro and Falconbridge Ltd.'s (FAL) Koniambo, both in New Caledonia, are still expected to perform at US$4/lb or US$3.50/lb but others, such as BHP Billiton Ltd.'s (BHP) Ravensthorpe may struggle, Price said.


Ravensthorpe, in Western Australia, appears to have passed the point of no return given BHP Billiton's commitment, but the company is likely seek synergies with the former assets of WMC Resources and expansions at the Yabulu refinery in Queensland to bring costs down.


"I still think Ravensthorpe's going to be a very tight operation from the analysis we've done," Price said.


Other projects are also likely to face delays and overhauls as prices ease.

Canico's Onca Puma likely facing delays


Price expects Canada's Canico Resource Corp. (CNI.T) to keep pushing out the start date and revising the development plan of its Onca Puma project in Brazil, for example, to seek greater efficiencies.


At the other end of the scale, small former WMC projects in Western Australia's Kambalda region such as Radio Hill are also prone to the risks of lower prices, he said.


The critical elements in determining a project's feasibility are ore grades, processing complexities and proximity to infrastructure and markets, rather than simply scale, he said.


Financing capacity is another determinant. Heron Resources Ltd.'s project in Kalgoorlie, for example, is likely to have struggled as a stand-alone project, but the input and expertise of shareholders Inco and BHP Billiton mean it is an almost certain starter, he said.


Heron managing director Ian Buchhorn, who was attending the conference, said the project is modelled on nickel prices of US$3.50/lb and operating costs of US$1.74/lb.


"It wouldn't concern us if prices come down because we never envisaged we'd be (producing) in the current price cycle," Buchhorn said. "It's a 25 year project at least."


"With a project of this size, you have to make your decision and go for it and you have to do it on the basis of on average long-term price, which is US$3.50/lb," he said.


Another Australian nickel project due to start producing in the coming years is Metallica Minerals Ltd.'s Nornico.


Managing Director Andrew Gillies said the project assumes operating costs of US$2/lb and long term nickel prices of US$9,000 a ton or about US$4/lb, which means the project still stacks up under Price's assumptions.


However, Gillies questions Citigroup's bearish assumptions.


"If there's a 5%-10% variation in their forecasting, it could have a dramatic effect in terms of China's demand," he said. "It also assumes all projects coming into production come in on time."

Output growth slowing despite China


Despite China's booming industry, global stainless steel growth is slowing, with first-half output this year up 5.7% compared with 7.8% in 2004 and further cutbacks likely to mean negative growth in the second half, according to Citigroup.


Falling stainless steel prices and higher alloy surcharges are behind the cutbacks, Price said.


Increasing scrap metal competitiveness and availability are also likely to eat into global demand for primary nickel, according to Citigroup.


On the supply side, growth in mine production has been less than expected, offsetting demand weakness.


However, Citigroup still expects an increase in mine supply of almost 100,000 metric tons next year, half from Inco's Voisey's Bay operation in Canada and half from expansions at small operations mostly in Western Australia and Europe.


Key areas of short-term supply uncertainty include a protracted strike at Inco's Manitoba operations, and labour disruptions at Voisey's Bay, he said.


New projects and capacity expansions in China are almost entirely supporting forecast growth in global stainless steel production, Price said.


Global primary nickel demand for 2004-2008 is forecast to increase at 3.5% thanks to China's 26% growth, as demand in Europe and Taiwan stays flat. Japanese demand is expected to fall 6.5%, South Korean demand fall 4% and U.S. demand fall 1.4%.

â—„ Back



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Base metals tumbled to lower closes across the board on the London Metal Exchange as a speculative sell-off hit sentiment across the complex, traders said.


Copper prices fell to around $US3,565 a tonne at one stage before partially bouncing and ending the kerb at $US3,590, a $US42 loss from Wednesday's close.


Traders said the negative technical close suggested that further losses were likely, with downside chart targets around recent lows in the $US3,540/3,550 area.


Sentiment was undermined by the perception LME stocks in Asia were likely to rise in the next few weeks as metal was shipped from China to take advantage of strong prices.


But European traders expected inventories, which have risen nearly three-fold from a 31-year low of 25,525 tonnes in late July, to start to fall again as consumers pick up material they put into warehouse to take advantage of high cash prices during August.


Elsewhere, losses were not as large ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“ aluminium lost $US15 to end at $US1,838.


Zinc dropped $US3 to $US1,371, amid receding concerns about stocks in New Orleans, as there is availability elsewhere.


LME chief executive officer (CEO) Simon Heale said it will maintain its suspension of New Orleans warehouses for delivery of warranted metal until its employees can inspect for damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.


Nickel fell $US75 to $US14,425/14,450, lead eased $US7 to $US863, while tin was $US140 lower at $US6,800.



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12 September 2005

Copper prices may decline; hurricane to limit demand


Source: Bloomberg


Copper prices may fall in London and New York this week as investment funds sell the metal on speculation U.S. demand may slow following Hurricane Katrina.


Seventeen of 22 traders, analysts, investors and copper users surveyed by Bloomberg on Sept. 8 and Sept. 9 predicted a decline. Four forecast a gain and one little change. The U.S. is the second-largest copper user. China is the biggest.


"Prices should fall a little as the funds are uncertain," John Meyer, an analyst in London for Numis Securities, said in an e-mail last week. "Mounting losses from Hurricane Katrina are a concern." Meyer forecasts copper will decline this week.


Copper for delivery in three months on the LME dropped 3.8 percent to $3,545 a metric ton last week. On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, copper for December delivery fell 4.2 percent to $1.604 a pound, the lowest closing price for a most-active contract since Aug. 18.


On the Shanghai Futures Exchange, copper for November delivery closed down 0.9 percent to 34,520 yuan ($4,264) a ton last week. Chinese prices include 17 percent tax and 2 percent import duty. The contract rose as much as 170 yuan, or 0.5 percent, to 34,690 yuan today.


U.S. President George W. Bush has approved $62.3 billion of federal relief spending after Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans and devastated the Gulf coast. It may take as long as 80 days to pump the water out of New Orleans, Col. Duane Gapinski of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Sept. 8.

Growth, jobs


The Congressional Budget Office said last week U.S. economic growth may be cut by 0.5 to 1 percentage point, while the nation may lose 400,000 jobs as a consequence of the disaster. The U.S. economy will grow at a 3.6 percent annual rate in the third quarter, down from the 4.1 percent gain predicted a month ago, according to the median estimate of 57 economists in a Bloomberg News survey.


The disaster has become the costliest in U.S. history, surpassing the $20.5 billion of damage to south Florida wrought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.


"The collateral damage caused by Hurricane Katrina is seen extending into various areas of the U.S. economy," said Angus MacMillan, an analyst in London for Bache Financial, in a Sept. 8 e-mailed report.


The U.S. may need to spend $600 billion to rebuild infrastructure, deal with diseases, deaths and damage to the environment, Germany's Die Welt newspaper reported Sept. 9, citing Claudia Kemfert, the Berlin-based DIW economic institute's energy expert.

Already slowed


Copper use in the U.S. had slowed before Katrina. In the first six months of 2005, consumption dropped 9.7 percent from a year earlier, according to data released on Sept. 9 by the International Copper Study Group, a Lisbon-based organization funded by copper producers.


"Copper demand appears to have fallen in the wake of Hurricane Katrina," said Thomas Au, an analyst at R.W. Wentworth in New York.


Copper consumption may rise as the U.S. economy recovers from the hurricane and begins reconstruction work, said Barclays Capital base metals analyst Ingrid Sternby in London. The U.S. economy may go "down then up," Sternby said in a Sept. 7 e- mailed report, citing Barclays's chief economist Larry Kantor.


Traders and copper users are also watching inventory levels, which have climbed in the past month as mining companies increase output to meet a forecast production shortfall. Stockpiles tracked by commodity exchanges in London, New York and Shanghai have surged 68 percent in the past month to 122,862 tons, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.


Copper production of 16 million tons last year fell short of demand by 709,000 tons, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a report last month. There will be a surplus of 60,000 tons in 2005 and 310,000 tons in 2006, the bank said.


Still, copper output has been curbed by a strike at mines and plants operated by Asarco LLC, the second-biggest U.S. producer. The strike began July 2 after workers rejected a labor contract offered by management.



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