Trouble With Dr. Copper?

Copper is one of, if not an essential component for much of manufacturing. In fact many analyst and economists look to Copper as a harbinger of the future of global industrial production. Copper has proven to be one of the best early warning signs of any significant down turns in factory production. So its move over the last 9 days has to be disconcerting to say the least. In a little over a week, the price of Copper has declined over 10%.

Data. Every day we get tons of data.

And that's a good thing. Data are the facts that we use to build our investment philosophy.

But at times like these, there is a world of difference in the TYPES of data that we see. And these data types makes all the difference in the importance we place in that data.

Today, for instance, we are right in the middle of the earnings season. Literally thousands of companies are reporting their results for the quarter ended December 31st.

We use this data, as an excellent measure, perhaps the best measure of how those companies are operating. In fact, I have often remarked that it is the accuracy of this particular data set, the operating earnings of America's corporation, that is the real strength of our financial system.

This morning we will also get a wonderful measure of the economy. At 8:30 eastern time will come to the preliminary measure of the Nation's Gross Domestic Product. And like corporate earnings, this too is a truly excellent measure of our overall economic condition.

Both of those sets of data, share one thing in common. They are historical. They mark a point in time, the quarter ended December 31. They are relevant because they are incredibly accurate. But they are also backward-looking.

On On the other hand, the price action of the markets are forward-looking. It is the collective action of investors and speculators, anticipating what they feel lies in our future.

So, with that in mind, I'd like to draw your attention to the extraordinary action in Copper right now.

Copper is one of, if not an essential component for much of manufacturing. In fact, many analysts and economists look to Copper, as a harbinger of the future of global industrial production.

Copper has proven to be one of the best early warning signs of any significant downturns in factory production.

So its move over the last 9 days has to be disconcerting, to say the least. In a little over a week, the price of Copper has declined over 10%.

According to Richard Adkerson CEO of the world's largest publicly traded Copper Producer, Freeport-McMoran. This “black swan” event is due entirely to the Coronavirus outbreak in China.

You see China, perhaps the world's major manufacturing center is also the most significant importer of Cooper.

If China's Manufacturing goes offline, the Copper Producers, like Freeport-McMoran are going to be hit hard.

And that's what's occurring right now. The Chinese Authorities, aware of the apparent ease with which the Coronavirus is transmitted, have begun the wholesale shut down of plants around the country.

We've noted in past podcasts that factories in Wuhan and Suzhou have already been closed. And this is an important point to keep in mind. This public health issue has now morphed into the political.

It is the government that will determine when factories will reopen. And it may be difficult to predict exactly when Chinese leaders will make that decision.

So, for instance,  even after we are given the all-clear on the Coronavirus, and there are no more infections. It will still be up to the Chinese government to determine when factories and plants will come back online.

And in turn, the ripple effect from those closed Chinese manufacturing facilities is liable to be felt around the world.

By their suppliers, like Freeport-McMoran. And by their customers, like Apple Computer, for whom those factories produce the goods that are sold here in the US and around the world.

So perhaps as we look back over the results of the last quarter, in the earnings reports and GDP.

We might do better to head the warning that forward-looking Dr. Copper is flashing right now.

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