3 Top Stocks to Own as Copper Reaches 7-Year Highs

NYSE: FCX | Freeport-McMoRan, Inc.  News, Ratings, and Charts

FCX – Copper prices are hitting a seven-year high. And, there are many good reasons to believe prices will remain strong in 2021. Investors should consider buying FCX, SCCO, and TECK.

Copper stocks have been one of the strongest sectors in the market. YTD, the Global X Copper Miners ETF (COPX) is up 39%, and it has gained a staggering 195% from its March lows. In contrast, the S&P 500 is up 13% YTD and 67% above its March lows.

Copper is closely watched by investors, as it’s considered to be a leading indicator of economic growth. The commodity is an input for all sorts of infrastructure, electrical systems, automobiles, machines, and power grids. 

Strong Copper Demand in 2021

In 2019, the global economy used 24.3 million tons of copper. Due to the coronavirus, copper demand was lower in 2020, but there are many reasons to expect that demand will be exceptionally strong in 2021 – a rebound in global manufacturing and trade; a robust US housing market; and a strong Chinese economy. 

Global Economy

The first major reason is that the global economy is turning a corner. The most variable component of global growth is manufacturing. Since 2018, global growth has decelerated primarily due to the trade war with China which exacerbated a cyclical downturn in manufacturing. Of course, it eventually fell even further with the coronavirus and shutdown causing all sectors to deteriorate.

Global trade and growth should improve significantly in 2021. Countries all over the world are deploying fiscal stimulus which should boost aggregate demand and spending. Trade tensions will likely relax due to the Biden Administration’s less antagonistic approach. 

ISM data shows that inventories are at low levels, (due to the softness in trade) while New Orders are elevated, which correlates to an inventory restocking cycle. 

Housing Market 

The US housing market is in very good shape. Supply is low, while affordability is relatively higher due to rock-bottom mortgage rates. 

Additionally, due to a decade-long bull market, household balance sheets are in good shape and relatively underleveraged which increases confidence that the strong housing market isn’t going to dissipate anytime soon.

High housing prices have many positive effects on the economy such as increased consumer confidence and wage growth for blue-collar workers. Another is more homebuilding and more renovations which results in increased use of copper.

Chinese Economy

Most countries, including the US, remain in sort of a stalemate situation with the coronavirus. Increased economic activity increases the virus’ spread which causes its own damage and may eventually end with less activity due to people staying home or forced lockdowns. This puts a limit on economic growth, until a vaccine is widely distributed.

 

(Source: Tradingeconomics.com)

However, China seems to have transcended this situation. They were the first to be hit by the virus and instituted the most severe measures in terms of medical care, quarantine, shutdowns, and contact tracing. It seems to have worked as life is mostly back to normal. Economic data like consumer spending, gasoline demand, and industrial activity are back at 2019 levels. 

China is the number one source of demand for copper, accounting for half of the global demand due to its manufacturing sector. In September, copper imports rose to their second-highest level of all-time. 

3 Stocks to Consider

These are three powerful, supportive trends for copper prices. Another contributor to demand growth is increased investments in “green energy” projects in the coming years as copper is integral to renewable energy projects. According to McKinsey, copper demand will increase by nearly 45% in the next 15 years.

Some of these positive developments are already being reflected in the price action as copper prices hit seven-year highs this week:

(source: finviz.com)

However, there’s plenty of upside given that the ingredients are in place for a multiyear, bull market. For investors who believe that copper prices will remain strong in 2021, these are the three best stocks to consider: Freeport McMoran (FCX), Southern Copper (SCCO), and Teck Resources (TECK). 

Freeport McMoran (FCX)

FCX has operations on three continents. It’s one of the largest producers of copper but also produces gold and molybdenum. However, it’s considered a copper stock since it accounts for 75% of revenue. 

In 2019, FCX mined 3.25 billion pounds of copper. Every $0.10 increase in the price of copper translates into an additional $315 million of cash flow. Its production cost is $1.73 per pound. The company is also investing in multiple projects, and it should be able to increase production to 4 million pounds per year in the next few years. 

FCX is rated a Strong Buy by the POWR Ratings. It has an “A” for Trade Grade, Buy & Hold Grade, Peer Grade, and Industry Rank. Among Industrial – Metal stocks, it’s ranked #6 out of 33.

Southern Copper (SCCO)

SCCO has operations in Mexico, Peru, and Chile. It’s the fifth-largest copper producer in the world with 1.02 million pounds. Copper accounts for 80% of the company’s revenue. Its cost per pound of production was under $1 in 2019.

It might also have the most upside relative to other copper stocks because it has the largest copper reserves of any publicly-traded company. The company is also expected to have the highest increase in copper production as it’s aiming for an 80% increase over the next five years.

Aside from its substantial growth prospects, another thing that makes Southern Copper stand out as a top option for investors is its low-cost operations. In 2018, the company produced copper for a net of $0.87 per pound after taking into account by-product credits, which is among the lowest in the sector. The company sees that number falling to $0.80 per pound in 2019 as it benefits from a project at its Toquepala mine in Peru.

SCCO is rated a Strong Buy by the POWR Ratings. It has an “A” for Trade Grade, Buy & Hold Grade, and Industry Rank with a “B” for Peer Grade. Among Industrial – Metals, it’s ranked #5 out of 33.

Teck Resources (TECK)

TECK is another major copper producer. It currently has 33 million tons of copper reserves. In 2019, it produced 297,000 tons of copper which accounted for 22% of the company’s revenue.

TECK is less of a pure-play copper stock, the company also derives revenue from oil, metallurgical coal, zinc, and copper. However, many of the same factors driving higher copper demand are bullish for these commodities as well – fiscal stimulus; increased industrial activity; a strong Chinese economy.

TECK is up nearly 50% since November, so investors should be patient and wait for a better entry point.

The POWR Ratings are bullish on the stock as well as it has a Strong Buy rating. It has an “A” for Trade Grade, Buy & Hold Grade, and Industry Rank with a “B” for Peer Grade. Among Industrial – Metals, it’s ranked #7 out of 33.

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FCX shares were trading at $25.37 per share on Friday afternoon, up $0.98 (+4.02%). Year-to-date, FCX has gained 94.09%, versus a 16.30% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 index during the same period.


About the Author: Jaimini Desai


Jaimini Desai has been a financial writer and reporter for nearly a decade. His goal is to help readers identify risks and opportunities in the markets. He is the Chief Growth Strategist for StockNews.com and the editor of the POWR Growth and POWR Stocks Under $10 newsletters. Learn more about Jaimini’s background, along with links to his most recent articles. More...


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