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JPMorgan Copper ETF Approved, But Fear Of Shortage Remains

The opponents believe that since copper is used in construction, consumer electronics and in the automotive industry, the overall economy could be harmed if that happens.

“Approval of this commodity-based security is a blow to American businesses and consumers that rely on copper for industrial machinery, plumbing, transportation, electric power generation and transmission, and electronics,” Michigan Democratic senator Carl Levin said in a statement in response to the SEC ruling.

Analysts at Australian bank Macquarie are also skeptical about the ETF, and have said that while the market expects a surplus of about 50,000 MT of copper this year, it could return to a “significant deficit” by 2016 to 2017 if JPMorgan's ETF attracts about $500 million cumulatively every year — the value of about 62,000 MT, The Telegraph reported.

The opponents' argument is valid if indeed financial investors with no intention of purchasing physical copper for consumption jump on JPMorgan's ETF en masse, or if investors purchase shares in the ETF to hold them, rather than to trade them or exchange them for copper. In particular, US pension funds, whose only option for getting exposure to copper has been to buy shares in producer Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX), could be attracted to the ETF. Typically they have a longer-term view and are more likely to hold ETF shares than to trade them.

Meanwhile, the SEC argues that copper held by the fund is redeemable three business days after purchasing shares, at which point it can be sold for cash, swapped or consumed; therefore, the amount of copper available to industrial users won't “meaningfully change.” It said this additional venue for purchasing copper will improve competition in the market, and in its ruling cites JPMorgan as saying that the ETF will “track, rather than drive, copper prices.”

The SEC ruling also states that the opponents' calculation of currently available copper for delivery doesn't take stockpiles in China into account, noting that there is no evidence to support the notion that China won't export copper as it currently consumes about 40 percent of the world's copper and its demand for the metal remains relatively robust.

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