Metals & Mining First Quarter 2024 Review and Outlook

Natural Resources
0 min read

Monday, April 1, 2024

Mark Reichman, Senior Research Analyst, Natural Resources, Noble Capital Markets, Inc.

Refer to the bottom of the report for important disclosures

Relative performance. During the first quarter, mining companies (as measured by the XME) appreciated 0.8% compared to a gain of 10.2% for the S&P 500 index. The VanEck Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) and Junior Gold Miners (GDXJ) ETFs were up 2.0% and 2.2%, respectively. Gold, silver, and copper futures prices gained 8.8%, 4.5%, and 3.1%, respectively, while zinc, lead and nickel declined 5.6%, 1.6%, and 1.2%. Central Banks around the world added to global gold reserves in January with demand expected to remain durable throughout 2024 due in part to a desire among some nations to diversify away from the U.S. dollar as the benchmark reserve currency.

Precious metals outlook. The U.S. Federal Reserve maintained its benchmark overnight borrowing rate at its March meeting and signaled the potential for rate cuts in 2024. Inflation appears to be moderating. The core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, the Fed’s preferred gauge of inflation, was up 2.8% from February 2023 to February 2024, following a 2.9% increase from January 2023 to January 2024. The outlook for the gold price remains constructive due to expectations of one or more rate cuts in 2024, continued geopolitical uncertainty, concerns about the growth in U.S. deficit spending and the national debt, and increasing investments in gold by central banks. To some degree, lower rate expectations may already be factored into the price of gold.

Outlook for industrial and battery metals. Following weakness in 2023 due to lower economic growth expectations, industrial metals prices could strengthen when monetary policy increases the odds for a more durable economic outlook. Inventory re-stocking and longer-term secular trends such as electrification remain supportive of supply and demand fundamentals for metals such as copper. For battery metals, a more gradual path for electric vehicle adoption may lead to continued volatility in lithium, cobalt, and nickel prices although longer-term demand fundamentals remain favorable. During the first quarter, futures prices for battery grade lithium rose 11.4%, while cobalt and nickel prices fell 1.2%.

Putting it all together. Because the performance of precious metals mining equities has lagged the strength in gold prices, equities could offer greater upside at this point as investors take notice of attractive valuations juxtaposed against a strong gold price. Junior companies remain particularly attractive based on valuation, and we expect industry consolidation to accelerate as senior producers seek to replenish reserves and resources.


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Senior Equity Analyst focusing on Basic Materials & Mining. 20 years of experience in equity research. BA in Business Administration from Westminster College. MBA with a Finance concentration from the University of Missouri. MA in International Affairs from Washington University in St. Louis.
Named WSJ ‘Best on the Street’ Analyst and Forbes/StarMine’s “Best Brokerage Analyst.”
FINRA licenses 7, 24, 63, 87


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