Copper Prices Update: Prosper as Copper Becomes the "New Gold"

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The Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognizable American icons in the world.

And as she towers 305 feet above Ellis Island, what's Lady Liberty wearing? Copper – 60,000 pounds of it.

Clearly, copper's big in art. It's also a key metal that keeps the world economy humming. Copper consumption has grown at an average annual rate of 4% since 1900.

China and India – which some analysts describe as the combined market of "Chindia" – where one of every three human beings resides, needs loads of this element to meet its modernization requirements for electricity and infrastructure.

Copper is also used in today's currency, where most U.S. coins are actually 92% copper, and 8% nickel.

But there's no denying that, given the choice, nearly everyone prefers gold. It's valuable, it's seductive and it's mystical.

Ancient kings fought wars to amass it. Yet, for thousands of years, its most enduring role has arguably been in the form of money – as a store of value.

That's because fiat-paper-currency experiments have never lasted, and always ended badly.

Increasingly, followers of the Austrian School of Economics are nostalgic for gold to regain its former glory, perhaps "backing" a new international currency.

But despite gold's much longer history as true money, copper – the much humbler metal – could be positioning itself to upstage gold.

China's Paper Mountain

If copper is to replace gold as the world's most-valuable metal, China will play a huge role. With all its uses – from hybrid cars to an electricity grid – copper may become both an inflation hedge and a strategic asset.

Today, China sits atop a paper Everest, with foreign-currency reserves worth more than $2.4 trillion. No public financial institution boasts that degree of financial-asset firepower. Of that total, more than $800 billion is held in U.S. debt.

A war chest of this size serves as a great insurance policy during tough economic times. The trouble is that China is painfully aware of the damage that U.S. dollar inflation will inflict on that massive hoard of greenbacks.

During a visit to New York last February, Luo Ping, a director general at the China Banking Regulatory Commission said: "We hate you guys. Once you start issuing $1 to $2 trillion… we know the dollar is going to depreciate, so we hate you guys, but there is nothing we can do."

There is something you can do, though. Bernanke has already issued nearly $1 trillion in "quantitative easing". And the dollar is depreciating fast. Luckily, you're not the Chinese government. You can combat the fall of the dollar with the "rich trick". It's simple, legal and can double your investment in 12 to 24 months (No, it's not gold.). Click here for our free research report.

China has tried to fight its dollar depreciation fears with gold. And so far, it isn't working. The country recently announced an increase in its official gold reserves to 1,054 tons, an increase of 76% from 2002 levels. China accomplished this without a single purchase on global bullion markets. How? By quietly becoming the world's largest gold producer, then buying up all that it produced.

Sounds like a solid plan. But it turns out, when you buy gold from yourself and pay yourself with U.S. debt, you still end up with the U.S. debt on your hands in the end. Even with its golden stockpile, China is still looking for a good way to spend its debt dollars.

Red Gold to Back a New Currency?

I expect China will continue to covet gold. But with such a large reserve in dire need of both diversification and securitization, this emerging global superpower of 1.3 billion citizens has set its sights on other tangibles. Let's face it, the gold supply is small, and China needs resources of all kinds.

So it makes perfect sense for Beijing to trade holdings it has too much of – like U.S. Treasuries, for example – for assets China needs more of, like copper. There are multiple benefits to this strategy, too:

Not only is China swapping a holding whose value is declining (dollar-based holdings) for a tangible asset whose value is on the rise (copper), it's also getting (in copper) an asset that's central to its ongoing infrastructure build-out.

Yet some believe that China's actions reflect a new strategy, since this acquisition binge goes way beyond national consumption requirements. And with a full war chest, that buying could be sustained for some time.

Copper could be used to back a currency, but it's also necessary for the modernization of China, and even in the next wave of automobile technologies – both electric and hybrid – an industry this nation could lead.

China's share of the copper market is a world-dominating 38%. Clearly, its record import levels last year were an influence that helped vault the copper price by 226% .

Dr. Copper's Diagnosis

Commodities traders often refer to this all-important non-ferrous metal as "Dr. Copper." Its price and supply/demand characteristics are widely assumed to reflect the health of the world industrial economy, hence its "Ph.D. in Economics."

Given that reputation as an excellent barometer, it's tough to understand just what's keeping copper prices high at a point in which the risks of a double-dip recession worldwide are exceeded only by the fears of one.

So what's propping up copper prices? For one thing, hedge funds are taking physical positions in the metal, rather than through futures contracts, due to concerns the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) will bring in position limits.

What's more, China's State Reserves Bureau has purchased large amounts of copper, pushing the nation's year-over-year imports up by 63%.

The Longer-Term View

I am convinced that we are still relatively early in a secular commodity bull market. In fact, with the modernization of Chindia and numerous other less-developed nations, I expect this bull market will be one for the record books. Fundamental demand coupled with inflation will push resource prices to unimaginable heights.

But that doesn't mean – in the intermediate term – that copper hasn't gotten ahead of itself. Look for its price to weaken somewhat before the price of the metal resumes its upward trajectory.

Even if a new international commodity-backed currency were to emerge, it's likely that copper will only be one of its underlying components.

For now, copper will continue to be overwhelmingly used in industry and infrastructure, with 75% of output going into electrical applications.

From my vantage point, gold will remain the ultimate form of money, while copper will retain its Ph.D. in Economics.

That's why I'm not expecting copper thieves to steal Lady Liberty's dress and melt it down, but I do expect copper to become increasingly valuable as our secular commodity bull rages on.

The last question investors need to answer is a simple one: How do I profit from this trend? If you're looking for a simple way to play copper directly, check out the iPath DJ AIG Copper TR Sub- Index (NYSE: JJC) Exchange-Traded Note. This ETN tracks the price of Copper High Grade Futures Contracts traded on the New York Commodities Exchange.

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About the Author

Peter Krauth is the Resource Specialist for Money Map Press and has contributed some of the most popular and highly regarded investing articles on Money Morning. Peter is headquartered in resource-rich Canada, but he travels around the world to dig up the very best profit opportunity, whether it's in gold, silver, oil, coal, or even potash.

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  1. stan chmiel | April 10, 2011

    Sirs- I am in awe of the amount of information you folks supply on a wide variety of subjects. Sometimes it's actually overwhelming. It's an overload on a person who has never bought or traded stocks. I am not complaining, though. I am very grateful for the chance to do something I have wanted to do for along time but was never sure of what to do.
    I want to buy about $10,000.00 of the stock for the pharmacuetical company Micromet that is producing the cancer fighting drug. I have never purchased stocks before and was wondering how to do this. Do I go through a broker? Or can I buy the stocks you folks recommmend myself electronically? Also, is that Micromet stock still a great purchase. I feel I need to buy this soon before it explodes.
    Thank you very much,
    Stan Chmiel

  2. michael cirulnick | April 12, 2011

    how to buy ? DO I NEED A BROKER ? can i buy online?

  3. Frank Bologna | April 13, 2011

    I really enjoyed the article on copper. I started looking at copper a while ago and began purchasing it. What I found interesting is that copper seems to have stalled already. I started to get worried about the downturn of it's value and began thinking about selling it off and make about 25%. But after reading your report I am going to continue buying copper instead of selling it . Thanks for the information and encouragement.
    Frank

  4. Steve | April 18, 2011

    Go Here for info on how to buy Copper.
    http://www.ehow.com/how_7154991_buy-copper-bullion.html

    Also, here iare some places that sells copper bars.

    http://www.goldfortomorrow.com/ECOHENCOPPER.html

    http://coppercave.com/copper/

  5. martin jones | April 20, 2011

    send me email update on price of copper,silver

  6. al tate | April 23, 2011

    I need to find the best way to puchase bullion type copper that comes from an essay type company. The pure C11000 constructon copper is pure but not certified.
    Thanks AL Tate

  7. Randy Schroeder | April 27, 2011

    would it be better to just by micromet stocks or use options to purchase it?

  8. Daniela Tonelli | April 28, 2011

    Can you please recommend what copper stocks to invest in

    Thanks,

    Daniela

  9. Mike Henry | May 2, 2011

    What are some good Copper Stocks too be into now. Thanks, Mike

  10. James Guthrjie | May 3, 2011

    I agreee. What copper stocks would you recokment

  11. joseph | May 12, 2011

    i am really upset,because i cannot find the price of just scrap copper by the pound. (in my area) maryland. thats all i want to know. why is that so hard to find out""""'

  12. Melissa S | August 26, 2011

    Since December 2010, I have switched gears from selling gold and silver to copper. Our company is a Featured Merchant on Amazon.com, where we are selling copper as kilo or pound bars and copper rounds in 1/4 and 1 ounce types. We are barely keeping enough supply for the demand placed on us weekly. Our prices do not fluctuate but have remained steady with the economy of copper as an upcoming "precious metal." With the popular stamps of the Indian Head, Saint Gaudens, Walking Liberty, and others, theses pieces have become increasing popular as gold and silver fight their battles on the front lines with Wall Street. This copper is .999 pure and does not have t be ripped out of buildings and sold at scrap yards.

  13. king priest tonyp. | August 30, 2012

    when gold and silver reach prices to high to trade with on a day to day basis we will have to resort to a so called lesser metal like copper to barter with, so its only logical that copper will increase in value along with the other metals with industrial applications as well as use for currency.

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