Copper Renaissance

The views and opinions expressed in this piece represent only those of the author and are not necessarily those of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

GQ magazine's top tip from the Autumn/Winter '16 collections was to "invest in copper." It advised men to "replenish [their] stocks of the rich, orangey-brown shade now." I enjoy the fashion journalist's perhaps knowing nod to copper's role as a financially traded metal. I certainly can't claim such insight into the world of fashion; it was news to me that Kanye West's new Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 sneakers, which hit the stores November 23, came in three colors: red, green, and...copper. It was even bigger news that these sneakers, with a sock-like design, retail for US$220, and have after-market values in excess of US$1,000.

Copper isn't just making a comeback in fashion. It's been used in architecture for millennia: in ancient Egypt, the doors to the temple of Amen-Re at Karnak were clad with copper, and the Statue of Liberty is covered in 80 tonnes of copper. But today, copper is "en vogue" beyond the rather unglamorous worlds of infrastructure and construction. Background kitchen accessories in copper are prerequisite for all good food blogs' arty photos. I saw a lovely copper bin in Oliver Bonas (a kitsch U.K. lifestyle shop successful in getting women to part with cash for things they don't need). A quick perusal of its website reveals a vast array of copper products, from an extendable copper back scratcher to a copper pineapple goblet.

Copper-related stories on Google News include Australian men dressing up in high-vis jackets to steal overhead copper wire in broad daylight, and Krylon announcing copper as its first-ever color of the year. The spray-paint manufacturer described the color as a "warmer, directional move from rose gold," and that copper is the "versatile metal of the moment."

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I doubt the website is one to be swayed by fleeting fashion. It seemingly extols the anti-microbial and anti-aging properties of copper. There you can buy a "Ladies Eye Mask," perfect for that wrinkly eyed lady in your life? Alternatively, "Men's Copper Boxer Shorts," perfect for that bloke you'd like to deodorize?

While the metal has grabbed headlines this month for its late entrance to the price party, Carl Icahn made the news for leaving a party early. President-elect Donald Trump's victory party to be precise. The billionaire activist investor left the party in the wee hours of the morning to place a US$1 billion bet on US equities, having seen the S&P 500 go into freefall. Icahn stressed in an interview with Bloomberg TV that he wasn't boasting by telling everyone about his investment; rather, he wanted to "make a point, that [he does] not think that Donald is going to be bad at all for the economy."

In the latest Copper Briefing Service, we discuss what effect Trump may have on copper, tempering our expectations of the boost that new infrastructure may provide for the metal. However, whereas gold prices were the main gainer post-Brexit, copper has seized the baton in the post-Trump price race. At the beginning of November, LME cash prices were up just 4% since the start of the year, but by November 23 they were up 22% in a post-Trump bounce.

John Lewis' "Helsinki" range of festive decorations features copper as an accent color. In its latest Christmas advert, the department store features a family dog, Buster, who is stuck in the house, watching on, sad and lonely, as foxes, hedgehogs, squirrels, and a badger descend upon the garden for a party, bouncing on the trampoline which the family has put up as a present for their daughter. On Christmas morning, Buster dashes out of the house to bounce with glee on the trampoline before the little girl can get a look in.

Back in 2015, Dulux made "Copper Blush" its color of the year, but the LME cash copper price fell 26% during the 12-month period. For most of this year, if copper had feelings, it may have looked on forlornly as the other base metals enjoyed bouncing high. But now, just like Buster, copper finally gets a go on the trampoline.

Nov 22, 2016
Nov 22, 2016