Copper price hits new high as covid cases sweep South America

Copper-mine

As the second wave of coronavirus infections intensifies in South America, the world’s top copper producing area, copper prices continued their momentum from the second half of 2020.

March delivery copper futures advanced 0.3 percent on the Comex to $3,652 per pound, surpassing a near eight-year high set in December.

As demand for bellwether metal rises on the back of fiscal stimulus expectations and recovery in industrial activities, copper prices have increased over recent months, but increasing covid-19 cases and lockdowns have also triggered a supply shortage for 2020’s most traded metal commodity.

Covid-19 cases in Chile, the top copper producer, crept up through the holiday season, hitting 26 percent of the June 2020 peak in the region.

A second wave of infections has yet to arrive across much of the world, authorities in Chile say. However, in some areas, including mine-rich Antofagasta, fast-filling hospitals have been forced to fly patients south to the capital, Santiago, where there are still more hospital beds open.

In Peru, the second-biggest producer, the situation is also dire. According to a report from the Peruvian Ombudsman’s Office, hospitals in the capital, Lima, and nearby Callao, which together serve a population of 10 million, had just 16 ICU beds with ventilators accessible earlier last month.

Although Peru’s daily case load remains at 20% of its August high, authorities say more individuals have been hospitalized because many are waiting for serious symptoms to be checked.

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