Column: Copper wins London Metal Exchange Week beauty parade

LONDON (Reuters) – This year’s London Metal Exchange (LME) Week has been a virtual affair of webinars and Zoom calls but the buzz of bullish excitement around copper has been very real.

A shipment of copper is seen in the port of Valparaiso city, about 121 km (75 miles) northwest of Santiago, June 29, 2009. REUTERS/Eliseo Fernandez/File Photo

Nickel won the LME Week beauty parade for the past two years as the market collectively reassessed the role of the stainless steel component in electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

That electric tingle is still there, as it is with other battery metals such as cobalt and lithium.

But it was copper that lit up the virtual space this time around thanks to the market’s current bullish optics and a future narrative of green infrastructure, with copper wiring at its core.

The two metals also topped this week’s Reuters poll of metals analysts in terms of price expectations for next year.

All LME metals are seen recovering from this year’s COVID-19 demand collapse but large supply surpluses are expected to cap the upside for the likes of aluminium and zinc.

One word of warning for metals bulls, however.

Analysts’ median forecasts for 2021 are all below current cash prices with the single exception of under-performing lead. The good news may already be baked into prices after their stellar bounce from the depths of lockdown.

Even assuming the pandemic can be controlled in the months ahead, recovery outside China could be, to quote research house CRU’s chief economist Jumana Saleheen, “a long, hard slog”.

COPPER’S GREEN CREDENTIALS

“Our pick is copper,” Citi’s Max Layton told the LME’s virtual seminar on Monday.

“I do think it’s a stand-out across the complex not just because it’s topical (but also because) it’s the one that has the highest probability of (supply) deficits,” he said.

Other panellists agreed and so does just about every other analyst, judging by the latest Reuters poll. A median forecast for a cash price of $6,800 per tonne next year represents a 12.5% rise from an expected average of $6,043 this year.

Analysts are rapidly revising their copper demand projections as they factor in green stimulus packages in China, Europe and, if Joe Biden wins the presidential election, the United States.

Whichever way you view the global drive to decarbonise, whether through the prism of electric vehicles, renewable energy or smart power grids, it translates into more copper wiring.

Copper’s new green credentials are being reinforced by robust current market dynamics as China soaks up the rest of the world’s excess metal.

The International Copper Study Group is forecasting a global market deficit this year, largely due to the statistical quirks of how China’s huge imports are counted. A significant portion may be going into invisible inventories in mainland China, but the effect is still to drain Western surplus.

EV METALS TAKE BACK SEAT

Nickel will register the second strongest price performance next year relative to this with a median forecast of $15,157

What is the Best Metal For Body Jewelry?

Two of the most common issues with body piercings are allergic reactions and infection. Correct care and cleaning of piercings are crucial, but the type of metal in the piercing jewelry you choose is also very important. The following are the top 3 best metals for body jewelry, and two choices that you should stay away from.

THE 3 BEST METALS FOR BODY JEWELRY:

#1 Implant Grade Titanium

Titanium is by far the metal of choice for body piercing jewelry, and can be safely used for initial piercings. Implant grade titanium G23 (Ti6al4v-ELI) is the type of titanium used in surgical implants, is biocompatible, resistant to body fluids and nickel free. Titanium is also stronger and lighter than steel, which gives us body piercing jewelry that is both durable, comfortable and nearly without scratches. Titanium is an expensive metal, but well worth the slightly higher price. Titanium body jewelry is beautiful, it lasts, and will look (just the same after many years of wear.

#2 Surgical Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is the most common metal for body piercing jewelry, and is just behind titanium when it comes to biocompatibility. 316L or 316LVM are the only two grades of stainless steel that are considered safe for wearing in healed piercings. Keep in mind that even the best grades of stainless steel do contain nickel and may cause problems for those who are allergic to nickel. Some countries have banned the use of stainless steel for initial piercings, and it is best to steer clear of stainless steel altogether until after your piercing is completely.

#3 Gold

Although it is beautiful, gold is not the best choice for body jewelry, especially for initial piercings or long term wear. Because gold is a softer metal and is made with metal alloys, there is a somewhat higher risk of irritation or infection. Gold jewelry is beautiful, but should only be worn in healed piercings, and with care. Replace gold body jewelry with titanium at the first sign of irritation.

NOT RECOMMENDED:

Sterling Silver: Do not purchase any body jewelry where the part that threads under your skin (barbell, banana, ring) is made of silver. Sterling silver tarnishes when it comes in contact with body fluids, can easily harbor bacterial growth, and can contain allergy-causing metals such as nickel. Body jewelry where a sterling silver “charm” that is attached to or dangles from the end of the steel or titanium bar is perfectly fine, so long as you aren’t allergic to silver jewelry. Just make sure that the part that is inside your body is made from a more biocompatible metal.

Mystery Metal: Scary. Any “costume” or “plated” body jewelry is a bad idea, and so is poor quality stainless steel. Stick with the top 3 choices above to be sure your piercing stays irritation and infection-free.

Remember that a body piercing jewelry is placed inside you, and should be treated more like a surgical implant than a piece of costume jewelry. Although it may …