The mineral and industrial metal commodities may be nearing the end of their decade long rally. I think a very good case can be made for the highs to be put in sometime in the next twelve months. Political agendas and inaction should support the metal and mineral markets heading into next year. However declines in global demand, a slow down in infra structure creation, higher production taxes and the eventual global debt crisis will bring these trends to an end.
First of all, the supporting case comes from a global political cycle that is determined to maintain the status quo. Here in the U.S. QE 2 is set to end next week. Most of the money that went into this program that was designed to stimulate the economy never made it out the front door of the lending institutions that received it. The money was used to strengthen the banks’ internal lending reserves, rather than passing it on to the public at the low rates at which they received it. Therefore, the individuals and small businesses never received the assistance and won’t miss it when it ends. Furthermore, the debt ceiling, which has been kicked down the line until August will find a way of being raised, extended, supplemented, etc. Neither political party in the U.S. wants to be responsible for causing a governmental work stoppage or promoting an unpalatable solution in an election year.
Globally, support comes from both the European Union, determined to postpone the situation in Greece as long as possible as well as the coming Chinese elections. This most certainly means bigger problems down the road. Until then, these two will both keep throwing good money after bad in two of the largest economies in the world. Europe has no solution to the Greek debt problem and the Chinese leaders vying for President will keep their individually governed areas rolling in the fiscal stimulus and distorted GDP figures until after their elections in January of 2012.
Unfortunately, the headwinds facing the industrial metals and minerals markets have been gaining traction for quite some time and are far more widespread. The obvious follow up is the pending global slow down. The debt issues of Europe and the U.S. must be reckoned with. When this is combined with cutting Chinese building subsidies and severely raising the mining taxes in Africa and South America, the markets will be forced to absorb the excess capacity of the Chinese buildup in the face of declining profit margins at the mine.
Platinum, copper, and mineral mining have increasingly shifted to African countries. Many of these countries have not received the compensation from the development of these industries they had expected. Some of this is due to corporate accounting that kept revenues off the books. Let’s face it, if General Electric can avoid paying U.S. income tax like it did in 2010, it shouldn’t be too hard to assume that corporate accountants for multi-national mining companies can evade the tax collectors in third world economies like Tanzania, Zambia and Ghana. The local governments, feeling slighted after the metal and mineral price run up in 2008 are enacting much tougher tax laws and strengthening their central governments in order to nationalize (seize) assets that have underpaid. These actions are similar to state run South American enterprises and will make ownership of publicly traded companies less attractive.
Finally, there is no question that global liquidity is at an all time high. Currency depreciation will continue to influence the metal markets as investors look for a safe haven store of value. However, if governmentally stimulated demand dries up or if the sources are over taxed, we will be left with empty buildings and unemployed workers. This decline in demand will outpace the draw on warehouse stores and lead to a decline in prices as the global economy finally comes to terms with itself in 2012.
This blog is published by Andy Waldock. Andy Waldock is a trader, analyst, broker and asset manager. Therefore, Andy Waldock may have positions for himself, his family, or, his clients in any market discussed. The blog is meant for educational purposes and to develop a dialogue among those with an interest in the commodity markets. The commodity markets employ a high degree of leverage and may not be suitable for all investors. There is substantial risk of loss in investing in futures.