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Base Metals: Second Quarter Outlook

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Based on fundamental factors of base metals and macroeconomic aspects, we provide the second quarter outlook for base metals -- aluminum, copper, zinc, lead and nickel. Furthermore, we present four base metal stocks which have potential upside based on average analyst consensus estimates.

Global Scenario

According to the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) latest report on the global economy, recovery is underway and global economic growth is likely to be 4.4% during 2011. Advanced economies are seen growing at 2.5%, headed by the US with 3%. However, China's growth projections are unchanged at 9.6%.

Overall, as emerging markets experience moderate growth, developed economies, on the other hand, may continue to witness strong growth. With these two factors combined, demand for base metals is forecasted strong.

Performance of Base Metals

Base metals ended 2011 first quarter on a mixed note with single-digit percentage gains in nickel, lead and aluminum, and modest losses in zinc and copper. Unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, and implications of the catastrophic events in Japan has piled pressure on prices. Heightening demand uncertainty ballooned inventory across the entire base metals complex, except nickel.

On the other hand, the MSCI World Index was marginally up by 0.8%, dented by soaring crude oil prices and the natural calamities in Japan. Gold prices during the quarter increased 0.8% while silver prices were up 21.8%.

Base metals are expected to continue to rally, taking cues from strong economic growth. Additionally, China's buying activity in the second quarter will soar ahead of the construction activity picking up in the third quarter. Besides, supply constraints are foreseen due to unfavorable weather conditions.

A weakening US dollar index could drive base metal prices higher. At the end of the first quarter, the euro and pound strengthened versus the dollar index that shed 4.2%, thereby pushing commodity prices higher. Unlike other central banks, the Federal Reserve is not expected to raise interest rates in 2011 thereby pushing the US dollar index lose ground under pressure.

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