Copper short squeeze fades ahead of key resistance Copper short squeeze fades ahead of key resistance Copper short squeeze fades ahead of key resistance

Copper short squeeze fades ahead of key resistance

Ole Hansen

Head of Commodity Strategy

Summary:  The industrial metal sector, led by nickel and copper, is currently heading for its best two-week run of gains since December supported by growth optimism in China and the potential threat to supply from additional sanctions against Russia. Global inventories of key industrial metals held in warehouses watched by the major exchanges remain historically low, potentially a bullish price signal once major central banks begin their, for now, delayed rate cut cycle. Following the latest short squeeze copper has returnd to challenge the upper end of a narrowing range.

The industrial metal sector is currently heading for its best two-week run of gains since December with the Bloomberg Industrial Metal index trading up close to 4% since hitting a September 2022 low at the start of the month. Gains during this time have been broad and lead by beaten down nickel, and followed by copper, the king of green metals, while aluminum has struggled despite renewed threats to Russian supply amid the prospect for a major package of curbs - potentially including Russian aluminum sales - to be announced by the US on February 23.

In addition to supply potentially being disrupted due to fresh sanctions, the sector has also benefitted from growing demand optimism, as the US look set to avoid a recession while economic data in Europe show signs of stabilizing, and most importantly additional measures being announced by the Chinese government to support an ailing economy which nevertheless is expected to pick some post Lunar holiday momentum. Supporting the idea about added stimulus rose after Chinese banks cut their 5-year loan prime rate by the most on record in order to cut mortgage costs to boost sentiment among businesses and households. 

Global inventories of key industrial metals held in warehouses watched by the major exchanges in London and Shanghai remain historically low, potentially a bullish price signal once major central banks begin their, for now, delayed rate cut cycle. Lower interest rates may boost an overdue recycling phase as it lowers the opportunity cost of holding inventories. In a recent analysis Goldman Sachs calculated that gold and copper would get the largest immediate boost from Fed easing.

In addition, lower US interest rates may support a weakening of the dollar, thereby lowering the cost of dollar-priced commodities in local currencies. Note, some of the strength this week across commodities, including industrial metals, has been driven by the first week of broad dollar weakness since December with the general risk appetite receiving a boost following a bumper result from Nvidia, the AI titan. 

Overall, copper remains rangebound with the mentioned China growth concerns being offset by speculation that the Chinese government will have to do more to support an ailing economy, and not least the prospect for a tightening market outlook as the green transformation continues to gather momentum and miners cut their production forecasts as they face harder-to-mine deposits, rising costs, water restrictions and increased scrutiny of new permits.

The bounce this past week has been amplified by short covering from wrong-footed hedge funds who during a two-week period to February 13 – when HG copper fell 5.25% - increased their net short futures position by 39,000 contracts (442k Metric Tonnes) to a four-year high at 42,000 contracts. 

Despite concerns about the Chinese property sector, last year's sharp increase in funding rates and more recently a jump in Treasury yields, HG and LME copper futures have traded rangebound since last May, within an increasingly narrowing range, in High Grade currently between $3.61 and $3.91, with the upper level touched earlier today before attracting some profit taking. Copper’s resilience during this period points to an eventual breakout to the upside, initially confirmed by a move above $4, while a break below $3.61 may signal a prolonged period of range bound trading until the expected supply tightness become more visible, especially during the second half of the year. 

Source: Saxo

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Previous "Commitment of Traders" articles

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 COT: Squeeze risks after funds sold into rising commodity markets
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15 Jan 2024: 
COT: Grains sector slump continues; Mideast risks lift crude demand
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COT: Weakest commodities conviction since 2015
18 Dec 2023:
COT: Crude long hits 12-year low ahead of FOMC bounce
11 Dec 2023: 
COT: An under owned commodity sector raising risk of an upside surprise in 2024
4 Dec 2023: 
COT: Speculators add further fuel to gold rally


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