Thinking Beyond the Ore: Adopting Thematic Opportunities

Copper’s Recent Surge

Copper prices have surged recently, driven by a mix of inflationary pressures and disruptions in supply and demand. While these traditional factors are significant, it’s the evolving thematic trends in copper demand that could be setting the stage for long-term growth. Key catalysts include China’s dynamic economic policies and the increasing use of copper in AI data centres.

Navigating Recent Market Dynamics

Copper prices have surged by 27% year-to-date, driven by strong demand and significant supply constraints. Institutional investors’ bullish stance on copper futures underscores market confidence in sustained price growth.1 However, major miners like Rio Tinto, First Quantum, and Anglo American are dealing with production downgrades due to underinvestment and declining ore grades.2 Meanwhile, Chinese smelter closures, caused by collapsing margins, are tightening the supply outlook further, given China’s pivotal role in global copper smelting.3

A New Era for Copper in AI and Technology

Copper’s role in AI data centres is expanding rapidly. As the AI revolution unfolds, copper is becoming both a crucial component and a potential bottleneck. AI data centres need around 65,000 tons of copper for each gigawatt (GW) of applied power.4 With the U.S. alone forecasted to add 18 GW of capacity by the decade’s end, the demand for copper in these infrastructures is substantial.5

Advancements in AI and increased global investment in data infrastructure are expected to sustain and accelerate copper demand. As AI technologies evolve to be more efficient and cost-effective, the adoption of copper-intensive infrastructures will only grow, driving higher consumption.

China’s Strategic Moves

China, the world’s largest consumer of copper, significantly influences global copper demand through its economic activities and policies. China accounts for more than half of the total global demand and its economic development has tripled its copper demand in the last decade.6 Recent improvements in China’s manufacturing PMIs and infrastructure projects are boosting copper consumption. China’s Belt and Road Initiative continues to drive large-scale infrastructure investments that require substantial copper usage.7

On May 17, the PBOC announced new property easing measures: RMB300bn for social housing, lower downpayment requirements, removal of the national mortgage floor, and reduced loan rates for housing provident funds.8 These measures are expected to stimulate the property market, leading to increased construction activities and, consequently, higher copper demand for electrical wiring, plumbing, and other construction-related uses.

Copper Miners: A Strategic Play

Investing in copper miners has historically been seen as a leveraged play on copper prices. Copper miners often outperform bullion in bullish markets due to their ability to use operating leverage to increase profits. Unlike direct investments in copper, miners can expand production as profit margins grow, providing a potentially higher return on investment during periods of rising copper prices (refer to graph below).9

Embracing the Future: Thematic Investments in Copper

Copper’s future looks bright, driven by technological advancements and strategic economic policies, particularly in China. As we navigate through this dynamic market, investing in copper and copper miners presents a compelling opportunity to leverage the growing demand for this essential metal.

Related Funds

WIRE: The Global X Copper Miners ETF (ASX: WIRE) invests in a global basket of copper miners which stand to benefit from being a key part of the value chain facilitating growth in major areas of innovation such as technology, infrastructure and clean energy.