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StockBeat: Red Metal Rally Keeps Mining Sector in the Green

By Geoffrey Smith -- The broader market may be exhausted after the rally of the last few days, but mining stocks show no sign of slowing down, fired by hopes that the China-U.S. trade truce will finally put a bottom under Chinese demand for key industrial commodities.

Glencore (LON:GLEN) and Antofagasta (LON:ANTO) were both among the biggest gainers in the U.K. FTSE 100 in early Tuesday trading in London, rising 2.3% and 2.5% respectively, and not only because the continued weakness in sterling is inflating the value of their dollar earnings.

The pair are among the world’s largest producers of copper, the metal that historically shows a reliable correlation to global industrial activity. Copper, conspicuously, has been on a tear since the start of December, rising 9% in just over a month at the prospect of peace breaking out between the world’s two largest economies.

Copper futures for delivery on the London Metals Exchange hit $6,298.50 a ton on Tuesday, their highest since May 2019. Antofagasta (LON:ANTO), a purer play on copper than the more diversified Glencore (LON:GLEN), is meanwhile at its highest since April.

Glencore’s rebound in the last month has been more modest, held back by a welter of legal investigations in the U.K., U.S. and Brazil. The company’s stock hit a three-year low in November on news that the – often toothless – U.K. Serious Fraud Office was investigating suspicions of bribery by the company, its employees, agents and associated persons. Glencore (LON:GLEN) said it will cooperate with the inquiry.

Tuesday’s outperformance is more notable for coming on the day that Blackrock (NYSE:BLK), the world’s biggest portfolio investor, said it will attach greater importance to sustainability and climate risks in its investment decisions in future. The mining sector is vulnerable to such concerns given the energy intensity of its business and the emissions generated by refining the raw materials it extracts.

Some of the biggest U.K.-listed miners have already seen the writing on the wall: Rio Tinto (LON:RIO) has already sold its thermal coal assets, citing its contribution to climate change, while BHP Group (LON:BHPB) has announced plans to exit the business. Glencore (LON:GLEN), by contrast, has only said it won’t increase coal production, while Anglo American (LON:AAL) has yet to commit to a date to exit the business.

By 5 AM ET (1000 GMT), the benchmark STOXX 600 had overcome some early weakness to trade 0.2% higher at 419.02. The German DAX was also up 0.2% while the French CAC 40 was flat.

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