Why Investors Turn to Copper as an Inflation Hedge
Every year, a vast amount of copper is used by the global economy to manufacture a wide variety of goods.
It’s a major ingredient in big-ticket consumer goods like autos, appliances, electronics, and new homes. Simultaneously, copper is also gobbled up for many industrial uses including telecommunications, utilities, construction, and industrial machinery.
An Economic Bellwether
Today’s infographic comes to us from Kutcho Copper, and it shows the red metal’s important role in the economy, as well as why it has become a famous economic bellwether.
When the economy is doing well and new things are being made, demand soars for the red metal.
When demand goes up, it drives the price of copper higher.
All Eyes on Copper
Because of this historic relationship, analysts around the world watch the price of copper closely.
Copper’s long history of predicting economic movements has famously earned it a nickname as the metal “with a Ph.D. in economics”
In other words: when construction and manufacturing are growing, so do sales of copper products. But this link as an economic gauge has other important implications, especially to investors looking to build a robust portfolio.
Rising Prices, Rising Copper
While copper’s link to economic trends is interesting, it’s power to shield a portfolio from inflation is even more compelling.
Rising prices come from an overheating economy with strong consumer spending – the same factor that is an influence on copper prices. As a result of this connection, tor every 1% annual increase in consumer prices since 1992, copper’s price jumped almost 18%.
In an analysis by Bloomberg Intelligence, copper outperformed every major asset class aside from energy as an inflation hedge – and during periods of rising consumer prices, copper had triple the 5.2% gain logged by gold.
A Threat to Portfolios
Inflation can absolutely kill an unprotected portfolio.
Why? If inflation is higher than the portfolio’s rate of return, then that portfolio is actually producing a negative real return. (Example: 2% growth – 3% inflation = -1% return)
In other words, inflation can be a “stealth” threat that chips away at returns, especially for fixed income portfolios. The good news: holding copper or other commodities can protect against rising prices.
Copper: The Inflation Hedge
At the end of the day, other industrial metals are very specialized in their use, and precious metals tend to be driven by investor sentiment.
Copper, on the other hand, is used in a vast array of industrial and technological uses, which makes it a proxy for the economy as a whole.
Copper is more sensitive to inflation and the dollar because of its uses and its growth with the economy.
– Jodie Gunzberg, S&P Dow Jones Indices
The Periodic Table of Endangered Elements
90 different elements form the building blocks for everything on Earth. Some are being used up, and soon could be endangered.
The Periodic Table of Endangered Elements
The building blocks for everything on Earth are made from 90 different naturally occurring elements.
This visualization made by the European Chemical Society (EuChemS), shows a periodic table of these 90 different elements, highlighting which ones are in abundance and which ones are in serious threat as of 2021.
On the graphic, the area of each element relates to its number of atoms on a logarithmic scale. The color-coding shows whether there’s enough of each element, or whether the element is becoming scarce, based on current consumption levels.
|C||Carbon||Plentiful supply / serious threat|
While these elements don’t technically run out and instead transform (except for helium, which rises and escapes from Earth’s atmosphere), some are being used up exceptionally fast, to the point where they may soon become extremely scarce.
One element worth pointing out on the graphic is carbon, which is three different colors: green, red, and dark gray.
- Green, because carbon is in abundance (to a fault) in the form of carbon dioxide
- Red, because it will soon cause a number of cataphoric problems if consumption habits don’t change
- Gray because carbon-based fuels often come from conflict countries
For more elements-related content, check out our channel dedicated to raw materials and the megatrends that drive them, VC Elements.
Mapped: The 10 Largest Gold Mines in the World, by Production
Gold mining companies produced over 3,500 tonnes of gold in 2021. Where in the world are the largest gold mines?
The 10 Largest Gold Mines in the World, by Production
Gold mining is a global business, with hundreds of mining companies digging for the precious metal in dozens of countries.
But where exactly are the largest gold mines in the world?
The above infographic uses data compiled from S&P Global Market Intelligence and company reports to map the top 10 gold-producing mines in 2021.
Editor’s Note: The article uses publicly available global production data from the World Gold Council to calculate the production share of each mine. The percentages slightly differ from those calculated by S&P.
The Top Gold Mines in 2021
The 10 largest gold mines are located across nine different countries in North America, Oceania, Africa, and Asia.
Together, they accounted for around 13 million ounces or 12% of global gold production in 2021.
|Rank||Mine||Location||Production (ounces)||% of global production|
|#1||Nevada Gold Mines||🇺🇸 U.S.||3,311,000||2.9%|
|#5||Pueblo Viejo||🇩🇴 Dominican Republic||814,000||0.7%|
|#6||Kibali||🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of the Congo||812,000||0.7%|
|#8||Lihir||🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea||737,082||0.6%|
|#9||Canadian Malartic||🇨🇦 Canada||714,784||0.6%|
Share of global gold production is based on 3,561 tonnes (114.5 million troy ounces) of 2021 production as per the World Gold Council.
In 2019, the world’s two largest gold miners—Barrick Gold and Newmont Corporation—announced a historic joint venture combining their operations in Nevada. The resulting joint corporation, Nevada Gold Mines, is now the world’s largest gold mining complex with six mines churning out over 3.3 million ounces annually.
Uzbekistan’s state-owned Muruntau mine, one of the world’s deepest open-pit operations, produced just under 3 million ounces, making it the second-largest gold mine. Muruntau represents over 80% of Uzbekistan’s overall gold production.
Only two other mines—Grasberg and Olimpiada—produced more than 1 million ounces of gold in 2021. Grasberg is not only the third-largest gold mine but also one of the largest copper mines in the world. Olimpiada, owned by Russian gold mining giant Polyus, holds around 26 million ounces of gold reserves.
Polyus was also recently crowned the biggest miner in terms of gold reserves globally, holding over 104 million ounces of proven and probable gold between all deposits.
How Profitable is Gold Mining?
The price of gold is up by around 50% since 2016, and it’s hovering near the all-time high of $2,000/oz.
That’s good news for gold miners, who achieved record-high profit margins in 2020. For every ounce of gold produced in 2020, gold miners pocketed $828 on average, significantly higher than the previous high of $666/oz set in 2011.
With inflation rates hitting decade-highs in several countries, gold mining could be a sector to watch, especially given gold’s status as a traditional inflation hedge.
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