(Bloomberg) -- Copper prices don’t reflect a “strikingly tight” physical market, according to the world’s largest publicly-traded producer of the metal used in everything from computer chips to electric vehicles.

Macroeconomic headwinds have pushed copper futures down almost 30% from a peak in March, despite brisk demand and shrinking inventories that are nearing historical lows. 

It’s “striking how negative financial markets feel about this market and yet the physical market is so tight,” said Richard Adkerson, chief executive officer of Freeport-McMoRan Inc.

“We’re not seeing customers scaling back orders. Customers are really fighting to get products,” Adkerson said Thursday during a conference call with analysts after the miner reported adjusted third-quarter per-share profit that exceeded estimates. 

The decline in copper prices this year reflects investor concerns about the global economy, weak economic data from top consumer China, the European energy crisis and a strong dollar, he added.

Such a pricing environment will defer new copper projects and mine expansions just when the world’s epic shift to electrification requires a massive amount of the metal, according to Adkerson.

Copper’s Slide Heralds Inevitable and Painful Metals Shortage

Copper traded on the London Metal Exchange gained 2.2% to $7,549 a metric ton on Thursday, trimming the year-to-date loss to 22%.

Freeport has been delivering supply growth from a successful ramp-up of underground operations at the Grasberg mine in Indonesia, countering output struggles by peers. Production rose from a year ago to 1.06 billion pounds, it said in a statement, beating the 1.03 billion-pound average estimate among analysts tracked by Bloomberg.

Adjusted earnings slumped to 26 cents a share from 89 cents a year ago as costs rose -- but still came in ahead of expectations. Revenue was in line with estimates, while the firm cut capital-expenditure guidance for the full year.

Freeport shares surged as much as 7.9% to $30.60 before trading at $29.65 at 12:17 p.m. in New York.


©2022 Bloomberg L.P.