Skip to main content

The price of copper is expected to climb this year, supported by a recovery in global economic growth and problems with supply, a Reuters poll showed.

The bulk of the poll was conducted between Jan. 8 and Jan. 20, before a coronavirus outbreak in China worsened, knocking financial markets including base metals.

The London Metal Exchange index of six base metals inched up only 1.5% last year while copper added 3.5%, held back by worries about a possible global recession and a trade war between the United States and top metals consumer China.

“But we think things will be different in 2020,” said Caroline Bain, chief commodities economist at Capital Economics in London.

The LME cash copper price is expected to average $6,214 a tonne in 2020, a median forecast of 28 analysts shows, an 8.7% increase from Monday’s closing price.

Analysts have upgraded their 2020 consensus forecast by 2.7% from the previous poll in October and see a steady climb during the year, with fourth-quarter forecasts averaging $6,365.

“A modest revival in global economic growth coupled with a less seamless return of supply than most expect following major disruptions last year should be positive for the price of copper,” Bain said.

Analysts expect a market deficit this year of 160,000 tonnes, the poll showed.


A ban on exporting nickel ore by top producer Indonesia at the start of 2020 is expected to support prices, mostly in the second half of the year.

Shipments accelerated ahead of the ban and China is currently well stocked, analysts said.

“Although Chinese nickel ore port stocks have risen recently, mainly due to surging imports from Indonesia, we do not expect that these stocks will be enough to keep Chinese NPI output at high levels,” said Matthew Piggott, head of metals and mining research at S&P Global.

Nickel pig iron (NPI) is an intermediate product widely used in stainless steel production.

The LME cash price of nickel is expected to average $15,325 a tonne this year, up 22% from the latest price.

Shortages are expected to create a market deficit of 31,000 tonnes in 2020, rising to 74,000 tonnes the following year, according the poll.


The global aluminium market is seen moving into surplus this year after a deficit in 2019, weighing on prices.

Analysts have pencilled in 350,000 tonnes of oversupply this year, boosting their consensus estimate by 15% from the last poll. Excess supply is due to total 562,000 tonnes in 2021.

“We expect that aluminium demand will not significantly improve this year. As a consequence, the global market will probably record a surplus in 2020 and LME prices will decline over the year,” said analyst Daniela Corsini from Intesa Sanpaolo bank in Milan.

Analysts expect cash LME aluminium to average $1,776 a tonne in 2020, up 1% from Monday’s closing price.


Rising supply is also expected to have an impact on the zinc market as mines ramp up production.

A surplus of 108,000 tonnes is forecast for this year, rising to 185,000 tonnes in 2021.

“Ample availability of concentrate is expected to boost global refined zinc production in 2020 by nearly 3%,” said Sanjeeban Sarkar, commodities editor at The Economist Intelligence Unit.

“As the market reaches a new equilibrium, we expect prices to fall.”

Analysts see the average cash LME zinc price at $2,295 a tonne, up 1.9% from the latest price.