Trading Copper: A Fundamentally Important Commodity To Consider In 2021. Find Out More


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Copper has played a key role in technology for thousands of years and continues to do so in today’s industrial expansion. Its wide range of uses makes it a popular commodity to trade.

In this trading guide, we explore regulated copper brokers, different ways to trade, and the reasons why people trade copper.

Read on to find out why copper is an important commodity, and what alternative metals may be of interest to traders.

In a hurry? If you are looking to get started copper trading, here are three brokers to consider in :

Disclaimer: Availability subject to regulations.
Between 53.00%-89.00% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs.

Why Do People Trade Copper?

Copper is used in large quantities all over the world. For this reason, it is thought of as a commodity that moves closely in parallel with the world market.

Here are three common reasons why copper is a popular commodity with traders.

Speculating on Industrial Growth

Copper has so many industrial uses. It’s an efficient conductor of energy — namely heat and electricity. It would be difficult to imagine building any significant industrial infrastructure without it.

As developing regions like the African continent, Eastern Europe, and Asia modernize their economies and expand their infrastructure, copper demand should grow.

Betting on the Housing Market

The global housing market overheated and took a tumble during the Great Recession of 2008. As emerging markets grow, demand for housing should follow in those regions as well.

The disruptive events of 2020, however, may have unexpected effects on copper demand, since the global economic and infrastructural expansion may suffer further.

Speculating on Supply-Demand Imbalance

Copper mining and recycling routinely fall short of the demand for copper. Mine expansions and new mines may help soak up some of this excess demand.

Environmental concerns and limitations on land usage may keep the imbalance in place for years to come. Trading copper is a way to speculate on the supply/demand imbalance.

However, the imbalance in favor of demand may even out or invert with the right set of policies.

Should I Trade Copper?

Important: This is not investment advice. We present a number of common arguments for and against investing in this commodity. Please seek professional advice before making investment decisions.

Due to copper’s wide range of global uses, it’s a high-demand metal. As a result of this high demand and the global mining market’s struggles to keep pace with it, traders may consider copper as a lower risk commodity.

Like any other metal, copper can be traded with various intents. One of these is portfolio diversification.

Given the belief that copper is a jack-of-many-solutions metal, speculation can be simpler than with other metals like gold that are seen as a store of value.

Do Copper Prices Correlate With Global Economic Health?

It is logical to speculate that the price of copper may show significant correlations with global GDP. More economic growth will tend to mean more manufacturing, resulting in higher demand.

However, a global halt in GDP growth can also pose risks to traders considering copper. Another major risk of trading copper is due to the industrial shift to using alternative metals to copper.

Ways to Trade Copper

There are a number of ways to trade copper:

Method of InvestingStorage CostsSecurity CostsExpiration DateMgmt CostLeverageRegulated
Copper Bullion
CFDs
Futures
Options
ETFs
Shares

How To Buy Copper Bullion

Traders can purchase copper bullion bars and coins from metals dealers, much like gold or silver bullions.

Investment-grade copper is refined to a purity level of .999 copper, resulting in higher trade costs than markets like futures.

This premium, along with the cost of storing the metal may make bullion an expensive and impractical way to trade. Fewer dealers offer copper bullion than gold bullion but you can still buy online.

How Do Copper CFDs Work?

One way to trade copper is through contracts-for-difference (CFDs), a derivative instrument.

Copper CFDs allow traders to speculate on the price of copper without actually owning bullions, ETFs, futures, options, or mining shares.

Plus500 Copper Analysis Screenshot
This screenshot is only an illustration. Current market prices can be found on the broker website.

The value of a CFD is the difference between the price of copper at the time of purchase and the price at the time of closing the trade. Learn more about CFDs in this CFD Broker Guide.

As copper prices increase, the value of the CFD goes up. As copper prices decline, the CFD loses value.

IMPORTANT: CFDs are not available in the USA due to local regulation, and regulated brokers do not accept US citizens or US residents as clients.

What Are Copper Futures?

A copper futures contract is an arrangement whereby traders agree to sell or buy copper at a future date.

Futures traders use leverage to purchase contracts on an exchange. If prices decline, the trader is required to provide additional funds (margin) to maintain the position.

To get a better idea of how copper futures work, see this explanation of leverages and margins.

When a futures contract is about to expire, the trader has to either accept the physical delivery of the commodity or roll the position forward to the next month.

Copper futures require active maintenance of positions by the trader, and so are considered a more sophisticated way to trade.

Are Copper Options Profitable?

Like futures, options are derivatives with an expiration date.

However, unlike futures, option trades are only successful if the price reaches a set level by the expiration date.

In exchange for higher leverage and higher potential payouts, options traders pay a premium to own the option.

Traders profit in options trading when the price increases enough to compensate the trader for the initial premium paid.

How To Trade Copper ETFs

ETFs (exchange-traded funds) trade as shares on exchanges in the same way that stocks do. Traders can purchase ETFs that include bullion, futures, options, or some combination of the three.

Other ETFs include ones that trade in copper mining stocks.

ETFs also have management fees that get passed on to shareholders. Here are two leading copper ETFs (based on assets under management):

iPath Dow Jones-UBS Copper ETNUnited States Copper Index Fund

Are There Any Copper Stocks?

Traders can also opt for companies that mine copper. Returns depend on other factors like the quality of the company management and the mines the company owns.

It is worth noting that increases in mining input costs such as the price of oil and equipment can adversely impact share prices.

Here are some leading copper mining company shares (these are example ETFs — not recommendations):

 Current PriceOverviewListings
Freeport McMoRan
Freeport McMoran
The largest copper producer in the World. New York (NYSE)
BHP Billiton
BHP Billiton
Anglo-Australian multinational mining, metals and natural gas company.London (LSE)
New York (NYSE)
Johannesburg (JSE)
Sydney (ASX)
Southern Copper
Southern Copper
Headquartered in Phoenix, AZ. It's a major producer of copper, molybdenum, zinc, silver, lead, and gold.Lima (BVL)
New York (NYSE)
Rio Tinto
Rio Tinto
Australian-British multinational with operations in mining and metals.London (LSE)
New York (NYSE)
Sydney (ASX)
Anglo-American
Anglo American
Major producer of copper based in Johannesburg.London (LSE)
Johannesburg (JSE)

Where Can You Trade Copper?

If you are looking to get started trading copper and other commodities, here’s a list of regulated brokers available in to consider.

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CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. <b>Between 53.00%-83.00% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs.</b> You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

A Statistical View On Copper

It doesn’t take an expert to understand why copper is a popular commodity to trade. It is a handy metal that is used across many industries with continued demand.

But what do the statistics say?

According to Statista, worldwide volumes of copper production reached over 20,000,000 metric tonnes. This number has been consistent since 2016, which indicates that supply is relatively stable.

Copper Demand Keeps Growing

However, the demand keeps growing, especially in regions like China, and supply disruptions during a chaotic 2020 continue to further the supply/demand imbalance.

More, a March 2020 research paper from Copper Alliance shows an expected increase in global copper demand, more specifically, an annual growth rate of approximately 9.9%.

Some companies may even take matters into their own hands when it comes to the supply shortage.

One of these is Tesla, whose CEO Elon Musk has announced a potential interest in launching an in-house mining operation.

Alternative Metals To Copper

Copper is a practical commodity with high industrial demand, but there are other metals that commodity traders keep an eye on.

The primary alternatives traders consider to copper are precious metals. Metals like Gold, Silver, Platinum, and Palladium are scarce and have a variety of industrial uses:

Other than these four, here are other metal commodities that copper traders may consider:

CommodityPrimary UsesContract SizeFutures Exchange
AluminumAerospace, cans, automobiles, construction, electrical wiring, appliances, foil and packaging.25 metric tonsCOMEX
CopperElectrical wiring, plumbing fixtures, transportation equipment, electric equipment, electronics, consumer products and industrial equipment. 25,000 poundsCOMEX
Iron OreAbout 98% of iron goes toward steel production.500 dry metric tonsNYMEX
LeadBatteries, protective shielding, ammunition and industrial sheets. 25 metric tonsCOMEX
MolybdenumMolybdenum is primarily an alloying agent with steel. The metal is also used in the production of petroleum, electronics, fertilizers and lubricants.6 metric tonsLME
NickelMost nickel is used in stainless steel manufacturing. Other uses include electronics, plating, catalysts and rechargeable batteries.6 metric tonsLME
SteelConstruction and infrastructure projects, mechanical equipment and automobiles. 20 short tonsNYMEX
TinTin is used as a coating metal and as an alloy to strengthen other metals.5 metric tonsLME
ZincZinc is principally used to galvanize steel and as an alloy to strengthen other metals.25 metric tonsCOMEX

FAQs

How is copper traded?

Copper can be traded through a variety of trading instruments where traders may or may not own the actual product. The main ways to trade copper through a broker or an exchange are through bullion, contracts for difference (CFDs), futures, options, ETFs, and shares.

What affects the price of copper?

Copper prices are determined by the demand for copper, primarily commercial. Such demand is driven by the construction and technology industries. Then, the rate of supply through copper mining and production determines what price the commercial consumers pay. See this research on future projections of copper supply and demand.

What is Comex copper?

Comex copper is a copper futures product traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s (CME) futures market. Traders who speculate on the futures market agree to buy or sell a particular product at a given date in the future. Futures products are a way for traders to lower the impact of potential price swings.

What is the trading symbol for copper?

The trading symbol for copper varies, based on which trading instrument and exchange the product is traded on. For example, the copper futures symbol on NASDAQ is HG:CMX. The symbol on CME Globex for copper futures is HG. On the London Metal Exchange, the contract code for copper futures is CA.

What are useful indicators for copper trading?

Copper prices are mostly driven by commercial industry demand and the rate of supply by copper-producing countries. Useful indicators for copper prices include company stocks that play a key role in copper consumption and copper production. Other useful indicators are indices of commodities that are required to mine copper, like energy commodities (oil).

Is copper a precious metal?

Since precious metals are defined by their scarcity and high economic value, copper can be considered as a precious metal. As copper demand increases, world copper stores will gradually deplete, in turn, making copper a rarer metal. While precious metals like gold and silver are considered a store of value, copper’s value lays in its wide range of practical uses.

What are some common use cases of copper?

Copper has many useful qualities, one of them being that it is an excellent conductor of electricity and heat. Thus, copper is often used as a conductor in the form of wires and pipes. Copper has also been used to print coins, and it is an essential antioxidant used by the human body.

Credits: Original article written by Lawrence Pines. Major updates and additions in June 2020 by Marko Csokasi with contributions from the Commodity.com editorial team.

Data Sources:

Further Reading

To learn more about copper’s qualities as a metal, how it’s produced, and which countries lead copper production, see this Copper Commodity Guide.

If you’re familiar with ways to trade copper, you can head over to our technical analysis pages and see:

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