Copper Extends Losing Streak in Third Quarter

Originally, the company produced only foundry castings at the 106 East 20th Street plant, but expanded to producing machined parts in the 1920’s. A Machine Shop building was leased until 1969 when a new Machine Shop building was built at 401 West 23rd Street.


Global investors bruised by copper’s 15% tumble this year are looking ahead to a November deadline for the U.S. and China to resolve a tariff fight.

Copper has fallen in three straight quarters, the longest such stretch since 2015. Steady production of the metal along with signs of slowing demand from China have weighed on sentiment this year, analysts say. Front-month futures fell 5.6% in the third quarter.

China is the world’s largest commodity consumer, accounting for roughly half the world’s copper demand. Investors have become sensitive to signs of weakness in the nation’s economy in recent months as a trade spat between the U.S. and China drags on.

Tensions between the world’s two largest economies battered prices of resources across the board this summer, but the move in copper is notable because of its heavy use in construction and manufacturing. That means a weaker global growth outlook caused by an escalating trade dispute would likely dent demand.

Now, analysts are waiting for planned November meetings between President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping to see if the two countries will be able to reach a compromise on trade. Copper prices have risen 9% from their mid-August low on these hopes, as well as on signs that the Chinese government wants to keep growth steady in its nation.

 

The price of copper has fallen in three straight quarters, the longest such stretch since 2015. Photo: nguyen huy kham/Reuters

“The market is behaving as though we are going to get some kind of deal,” said Bart Melek, head of commodity strategy at TD Ameritrade. “But it can’t be assumed easily that a deal is going to get done.”

Analysts say data showing stable supply around the world and weakness in the Chinese economy could keep money managers cautious on industrial metals. Data earlier in September showed investment in factories, railways and other projects in China grew in the first eight months of the year at its slowest pace in more than a quarter-century.

Hedge funds and other speculative investors have pared back bearish bets on copper prices lately—another sign that sentiment toward the metal could be improving.

Bullish bets by speculators exceeded bearish wagers for the first time since early July during the week ended Sept. 25, Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show.

Investors are also monitoring swings in the dollar. For much of the year, a stronger dollar has made copper and other commodities denominated in the U.S. currency more expensive for overseas buyers. The dollar climbed to a 15-month high in August but has since come down 0.8%, relieving some pressure on commodities.

“We still see upside in the metals, but certainly I don’t think the trajectory is as high as it once was,” Mr. Melek said.

Write to Amrith Ramkumar at amrith.ramkumar@wsj.com


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