Industrial metals are on track for the worst quarter since the 2008 financial crisis as prices are pummeled by recession worries. Copper, the great economic bellwether, has ricocheted into a bear market from a record four months ago, while tin just tumbled 21% in its worst week since a 1980s crisis froze London trading for four years.
It’s a dramatic reversal from the past two years, when metals surged on a wave of post-lockdown optimism, inflationary predictions and supply snarls. Now, inflation is here and supplies are still tight. But prices are plummeting as worries about a slowdown in industrial activity across major economies dovetail with slumping demand in China.
For a metal like copper, its uses in everything from heavy industrial machinery to advanced electronics mean the market is tightly linked to economic shifts, and the retreat marks a signal from commodity markets that efforts to get prices back under control are having some early successes. The mood in metals has soured even as Chinese Covid-19 lockdowns start to ease, and there are signs that traders there are betting copper prices will fall further.