Copper for March delivery is off nearly 5.2% today to $2.507 per pound, extending a slide that has taken the red metal to a five-and-a-half year low after the World Bank slashed its global GDP forecast to growth of 3% from 3.4%.
After falling to its lowest levels since May 2009 on Tuesday, the iPath Dow Jones-UBS Copper Subindex Total Return ETN (NYSEArca: JJC) is lower by nearly 4% today. The largest U.S.-listed copper ETN has shed nearly 18% over the past 90 days.
Short positions in copper are at a multi-year high as traders hold a more pessimistic outlook over China’s growth and diminished demand for the industrial metal, reports Jenny Cosgrave for CNBC. [Copper ETN Dives to Lowest Price Since 2009]
None of those factors are good news for the iShares MSCI Chile Capped ETF (NYSEArca: ECH), the lone ETF dedicated to tracking equities in the world’s largest copper-producing country. Although Chile is viewed by some market observers as the most advanced and open South American economy and it is undeniably home to Latin America’s highest sovereign credit rating (AA-), there is also no denying the country’s dependence on copper exports as a driver of government revenue. [A Chilly View on the Chile ETF]
“Copper roughly represents 40% of the country’s export revenue and minerals constitute the majority of the revenue in total,” according to Emerging Equity.
When looking at ECH, the ETF’s correlation to copper prices is not readily apparent. The ETF’s materials sector weight is just 11.8%, or 610 basis points below the fund’s weight to bank stocks and well below the almost 29% allocated to the utilities sector. However, ECH’s five-year correlation to JJC is 0.6. ECH’s three-month slide of 8.1% is less than half as bad as JJC’s tumble over the same period.
Predictably, China is the 800-pound gorilla in Chile’s copper room. China is by far the largest copper-consuming nation in the world and the country imports 70% of its consumed copper.
Unfortunately for ECH, China’s industrial profits slipped the most in two years in November following a 2.1% drop in October. Copper’s slide is also crimping optimistic 2015 forecasts for Chilean stocks. At the end of 2014, analysts polled by Reuters expected Chile’s benchmark IPSA Index to rise 10% this year, but the IPSA is already down more than 2% since the start of 2015.
There are hopes for rebounds for Chilean stocks and ECH. The country is a seen as a winner in a low oil price environment and stocks there are inexpensive relative to historical averages. [An ETF Idea for Low Oil Prices]
iShares MSCI Chile Capped ETF