Lead Market to Remain Healthy in 2014

Market GraphDuring its April meeting in Lisbon, the International Lead and Zinc Study Group (ILZSG) reviewed the current outlook for trends in world supply and demand for lead. The group expects that global demand for refined lead metal will increase by 4.4% in 2014 to 11.73 million metric tons (mt). This will be driven mainly by growth in China where usage is forecast to increase by 7.4%. In 2013, China accounted for 45.2% of total global lead usage. After increasing by 14.1% in 2013, demand in the U.S. is forecast to rise by a modest 0.6%. In Europe, a rise of 2.2% is anticipated, driven mainly by a forecast recovery in Italian demand.

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Nickel Prices Surge

Markets Nickel-PricesMonth-to-month, there was little change in the E&MJ Price Index except for one metal: nickel. During April, nickel prices jumped $2,300 per metric ton (mt) to $18,070/mt from $15,770/mt, an increase of 14.6%. That follows a 10.4% month-to-month increase in March from $14,285/mt. In two months, nickel has climbed to $8.21/lb from $6.49/lb. So where does it go from here?

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Copper Prices Slide During March

During March, copper prices dropped to $6,667 per metric ton (mt, $3.01/lb) from $7,149/mt ($3.18/lb). That amounted to a 6.7% decline for the month, and several times during March the price dropped below the $3/lb threshold to as low as $2.92/lb. At the beginning of the year, copper was trading at $3.32/lb. Year-to-date, copper prices are down about 10%. In the October 2013 Markets column, E&MJ reported the International Copper Study Group’s forecast for an oversupplied copper market in 2014. Despite copper production interruptions at some major mines, softening demand appears to support that forecast.

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Cobalt Market May See More Changes in 2014

Given its position as the world’s largest producer, developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have the potential to significantly impact the market in 2014, according to Roskill’s Cobalt: Market Outlook to 2018. The DRC government would like to increase domestic refining of copper and cobalt products and decrease exports of unrefined materials. The proposed export ban on concentrates did not come to fruition in 2013, but government rhetoric suggests that such measures could still go ahead in 2015.

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