Market Insider

Why copper is winning votes this election season

A worker supervises as molten liquid copper is poured into molds.
Oliver Bunic | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Copper is on a roll — rallying more than 10.5 percent in two weeks.

The industrial metal has been having its best winning streak in four years — in the runup to the presidential election, and some analysts believe it could continue to break out.

While the election is not necessarily the factor driving copper, strategists have watched the weaker dollar in the last two weeks as a positive for the metal, which is also viewed as a proxy for global growth. The dollar slumped as the prospects for Democrat Hillary Clinton were clouded by a new FBI probe.

But on Monday, copper rose with other risk assets, in tandem with a rebounding greenback, on news the FBI has not changed its conclusions about Clinton's email server. Clinton is favored by markets as a status quo candidate with known policies, while her rival Republican Donald Trump is seen as more unpredictable and volatile.

Copper futures for December gained almost 2 percent Monday to settle at $2.3095 per pound, in the 11th straight positive session. The metal has gained 10.58 percent during that period.

According to TD Securities, the "brighter economic picture in China" has driven copper speculators to reverse shorts and now net long positions are the highest since 2014 based on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission commitment of traders data. TD said the market would need further proof of an improving economy in order for copper to move much higher.

While recent Chinese trade data were weak, China's official manufacturing PMI increased to 51.2 for October, its best level in more than two years.

Strategas technical analyst Todd Sohn said the copper chart looks like there's room for more upside.

"Economic data aside, I would think there's a little more confidence coming from the charts," said Sohn.

"One helpful tell is when you look at the other industrial metals — aluminum, zinc, tin, lead — they've all moved sharply higher. Just by association ... copper should follow them."

Sohn said copper broke $2.27, and that set the market up for a move toward $2.40, $2.50. "There could be a bumpy road given the strength we've seen," he said.

"I'm in the breakout camp. I would be upset if it turns out to be one big head fake," he said. "We're looking at the best 10-day change in copper in four years," he said. "It's up 10 percent roughly over the last 10 days."

The last time copper made such a move was in 2012, but it reversed course and remained in a long slump.

Futures Now: Copper falls to 1-month lows
Futures Now: Copper falls to 1-month lows

Jim Wyckoff, senior analyst at Kitco, said there could be a short-term correction just because of the rapidity of the move but he says the charts show a trend higher. He expects to see a sideways-to-higher move into the end of the year.

"The bottom line is we have some strong bullish technical momentum," Wyckoff said. "The next upside price objective is this year's high of $2.3290."

However, Bart Melek, head of commodities strategy at TD, said he doesn't see copper making much more headway. He said the $2.32 level on the futures could act as resistance and said the market looks toppy. "Certainly, specs probably may not want to get more committed on the long side," he said.

"While China has stabilized, there are no signs that things are rocking and rolling in a material way," Melek said. "We are seeing more production and we are expecting a surplus next year. These prices are almost guaranteeing that we're not going to see any shutdowns."