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Why Shares in Copper Miner Freeport-McMoRan Crashed in June

What happened

Shares in copper miner Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE: FCX) fell a whopping 25.1% in June according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The move comes in line with a sell-off in the price of copper and negative investor sentiment on the future direction of the economy in the light of interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and other central banks.

Having started the month with a price of around $4.30 per pound, the price of copper fell sharply to end the month at around $3.60 per pound -- a drop of 16.2%.

So what

It's a significant move, but long-term investors shouldn't lose sight of the long-term picture here. For example, the current price is still notably higher than the $2.60 per pound at which copper entered 2019 (before COVID-19), and it's also a lot higher than average over the last decade.

Moreover, a large part of the sell-off in copper comes down to speculative money flowing out in response to the rate hike action -- the demand for copper certainly hasn't dropped 16.2% in the last month.

If the economy emerges from this difficult period in moderate growth mode, traditional demand for copper (construction, consumer products, machinery, electrical networks) will receive support. Also, there's the long-term demand driver from its use in electric vehicles, renewable energy, and the long-term trend toward electrification in the economy.

Meanwhile, Freeport's management believes that the global supply of copper will be constrained by political uncertainty in countries like Chile and Peru and the general difficulty of acquiring permits. In contrast, Freeport has major expansion projects in countries like Indonesia and Arizona.

Now what

Aside from the price of copper and the global growth outlook, investors in copper miner Freeport have a couple of things to look out for in the company's next results. On the first-quarter earnings call, management disappointed the market by slightly lowering its sales volume expectations for 2022 and raising its cost assumptions on the back of rising raw material costs. Investors will want to see the former maintained, while it's possible that its costs might moderate in the future as energy prices fall.

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Lee Samaha has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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