In the commodities constellation, base metals such as aluminum, copper, lead, nickel, and tin usually attract much less attention than the alluring stars of the petroleum complex. Nevertheless, base metals hold an important position in the global economic universe. Not only are they especially important for the economies of many emerging/developing countries (think of China, a huge base metals consumer), but also for several so-called advanced nations.

Of course history is not destiny. However, history reveals that major moves (trend changes) in the base metals complex (use the London Metal Exchange’s base metal index, “LMEX”, as a benchmark) nevertheless can offer important guidance for significant shifts in other marketplaces. Often LMEX major moves precede those in other financial realms.

The bear marketplace trend for base metals “in general” began in early 2011 and accelerated in 2014 and 2015. Base metals established an important bottom in mid-January 2016. This occurred alongside, though shortly before, troughs in commodities in general (and the petroleum complex in particular) and key lows in the S+P 500 and emerging marketplace stocks. The LMEX bottom also preceded the peak in the trade-weighted United States dollar and a significant yield low in the US Treasury 10 year note.

Emerging and developed countries closely interconnect in today’s international economy. So the base metals price rally since its first quarter 2016 low helped to spark optimism about improved global economic growth. However, the upward walk in base metals has been very modest compared to the sharp petroleum climb. In addition, recent LMEX highs roughly coincide with the April 2016 ones in the S+P 500 and emerging marketplace stocks. And US Treasury note yields have slipped lower since mid-March. Suppose noteworthy renewed weakness in base metals appears, with 1Q16 lows challenged or broken. This probably would signal (confirm) further slowing in real GDP expansion rates not only in China, but around the globe.


Admittedly, in a review of several very important marketplace domains during the 2007-09 global economic crisis era, a notable time lag between the achievement of a crucial price point turning level (major high/major low) in a given arena in relation to those of various other arenas sometimes appears. Nevertheless, many significant trend changes in the LMEX base metal index, the broad Goldman Sachs Commodity Index, emerging marketplace stocks “in general”, the S+P 500, the broad real trade-weighted dollar, and the US Treasury 10 year note occurred around roughly the same time. Given the preceding analysis of the 2011-present period, this underscores the importance of watching base metals as a guide to (confirming indicator for) significant trend changes in these financial arenas.

The LMEX’s lofty May 2007 pinnacle preceded major highs in the broad GSCI (7/3/08 at 894), MXEF (11/1/07 at 1345), S+P 500 (10/11/07; 1576), and Shanghai Composite Index (10/16/07 at 6124), as well as the broad real trade-weighted dollar’s April 2008 major bottom. The LMEX’s high in early February 2011 also occurred prior to (although not long before) major peaks in the broad GSCI and MXEF. And quite significantly, the LMEX’s March and July 2008 very important secondary tops occurred close in time to the major low in the TWD, the final highs in the S+P 500 (5/19/08; 1440) and MXEF (5/19/08 at 1253), and the broad GSCI’s peak. In addition, the LMEX’s December 2008 major low occurred relatively near in time to turns in these marketplaces.

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Base Metals and Other Marketplace Travels (5-16-16)