Goldman says zinc has bottomed, base metals to rally on short covering

The recent recovery in base metals is probably unsustainable, except in zinc, says Goldman Sachs, which is calling a bottom for the industrial metal used in batteries and paints.

The base metal has rallied 18 percent off mid-January lows around $1,445, making back much of the 20 percent loss it had suffered since the beginning of 2015.

And zinc has the "strongest bull case" of the metals markets, wrote Goldman Sachs' analysts in a note released Thursday, as mine depletion and production curtailments likely continue to tighten supply this year, further supporting prices.

Third-month zinc on the London Metals Exchange closed at $1,715 a ton on Thursday after hitting an intraday high of $1,728 a ton, the strongest close in three months.

Zinc, which has gained as much as 6.8 percent on the LME in February alone, will continue to outperform, Goldman said, forecasting 12-month zinc prices at $1,800 a ton.

Other base metals prices have also rallied around 8 percent off mid-January lows, alongside a recovery in oil prices, a weakening U.S. dollar and a stabilization in China's old economy, and may continue to gain in the next two months, the bank said.

"Against the backdrop of still significant short metals positioning (particularly copper and aluminium), we reiterate that the recent stabilization of the GS China Metals Consumption Index, the upcoming seasonal improvement in metals demand (post Chinese New Year), China state stockpiling, and potential further capacity closures could be catalysts for a short covering rally near term," the Goldman analysts explained.

But the bear market drivers that have pushed base metals 20 percent down on-year and 50 percent lower than their mid-2011 peaks remained intact, they said.

"China and emerging markets deleveraging, together with further medium-term dollar strength and mining cost deflation are set to keep 'capex' heavy metals prices under pressure, particularly copper and aluminium, where supply growth is set to outpace demand growth most significantly," the analysts wrote.

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