We believe 2 short-term factors have created a short-term surge in zinc supply which has caused the pause in the LME inventory downtrend.
We believe that the Chinese rebate surge will be absorbed by the market fairly quickly as the Chinese smelters drop back their exports and build back their inventories. On the other hand, the effect of the Red Dog shipment spike will last into Q1. However, with the previous pace of LME Zinc depletion at around 80,000 tonnes per quarter, the additional 25,000 tonnes from Red Dog in Q1 shouldn’t prevent the downtrend in LME inventories from resuming, albeit at a temporarily decreased pace. We expect the zinc crisis to become very evident after the effects of the Red Dog shipment spike have dissipated by the end of Q1.
After the short term surge in supply from these 2 temporary events is absorbed by the market, we expect zinc to remain very strong because of the dearth of sizable projects in the pipeline for the next few years combined with growing demand and depletion of reserves at existing mines. We believe the fears in the market that the recent short-term trend change in zinc LME inventories could indicate a permanent shift in the supply/demand situation are misguided, and we expect that to become apparent in coming months. If the downtrend resumes as we expect, we believe the only way the LME Zinc inventories will avoid complete depletion is with zinc prices increasing enough to curtail demand.
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