Rotating Into Mining: The Overlooked Opportunity in Natural Resources

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In the investing world, money often rotates between different sectors over time. After a long period of technology stocks dominating, we may now be entering a new cycle where mining and natural resource stocks start to outperform other industries and sectors. There are several compelling reasons mining could be the next big thing for investors.

First, demand is soaring for the critical minerals and metals used in electric vehicles, batteries, and clean energy. Metals like lithium, nickel, cobalt, and copper are essential for manufacturing electric car batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, and other green technologies. With many countries pushing for faster adoption of EVs and renewable power, demand for these key minerals is skyrocketing. Major automakers have announced ambitious electric vehicle plans, which requires secure access to raw materials. This imbalance between booming demand and limited supply bodes well for mining firms.

Additionally, the pandemic exposed risks of relying on a few countries for critical minerals. It revealed the need for domestic mining capacity to ensure stable access to essential inputs like lithium. For instance, the U.S. aims to boost domestic production of strategic minerals and reduce dependence on China. The EU also has a new plan to secure rare earth supplies within Europe. This focus on mineral independence is a plus for miners in North America and Europe.

Rising inflation and gold prices also bolster the case for mining stocks. With central banks printing huge amounts of money, many investors see gold as an inflation hedge. This has helped push gold prices to an 8-month high around $1900/ounce. Higher inflation tends to lift gold and silver prices as people flock to hard assets. Many miners produce both precious metals alongside base metals. They benefit from rising gold and silver prices.

Additionally, gold often rises when risks are high, like the current Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Gaza crises. Its safe haven appeal attracts buyers during geopolitical tensions. Between high inflation and geopolitical uncertainty, the macroeconomic environment seems favorable for both precious metal and base metal prices. This could kickstart a broad recovery across the mining sector.

The recent wave of mergers and acquisitions in mining also signals a positive shift. . In November 2023, Newmont Corporation completed its acquisition of Newcrest Mining Limited to create a leading global gold mining company with robust copper production. Just this month, Rio Tinto announced an $825 million lithium project purchase to support its battery materials business. These deals indicate big miners are positioning to capitalize on the electric vehicle revolution. Other companies like Century Lithium Corp. aim to produce lithium for the electric vehicle and battery storage market.

Additionally, mining stocks have held up well compared to the broader market’s decline. The global lithium stock index has surged over 110% in the past year. Many mining stocks linked to EVs have shown resilience amidst the tech stock plunge. This relative strength highlights the bullish outlook for miners enabling the energy transition. Noble Capital Markets’ investment banker Francisco Penafiel shared that “In the recent past, battery minerals have been getting the attention from investors, especially  critical metals such as lithium and cobalt. However, base metals like copper and nickel should also gain a healthy traction from the investment community, narrowing the existing valuation gap for junior miners,  due to the expected increase in their market demand as those are essential in the creation process of more efficient battery technologies”.   

After years of underperformance, mining stocks also look attractive relative to potential growth. For instance, the price-to-earnings ratio for diversified mining giant Glencore is under 6x, a bargain compared to high-flying tech stocks. While mining is volatile, long-term investors could be rewarded handsomely for their patience. The time seems ripe for mining stocks to revert upward after years of neglect.

Of course, risks exist like policy changes, permitting issues, cost inflation, and ESG concerns. But the overarching trend toward electrification seems unstoppable. While mining is cyclical, we appear to be entering an upcycle driven by underinvestment in new supply and exploding demand for the minerals needed to power the green transition.

Noble Capital Markets’ Senior Research Analyst, Mark Reichman states, “Our outlook for the mining sector remains favorable, particularly for the precious metals mining sub-sector. We believe growing electrification among developed nations and increased infrastructure spending bodes well for the long-term outlooks for metals such as copper, lithium, rare earths, and nickel. We think M&A activity will continue as large mining, energy, car manufacturers, and battery makers seek to de-risk their long-term strategies by ensuring long-term supplies of raw materials.”

In summary, mining stocks check many important boxes right now – strong demand drivers, favorable macro conditions, M&A activity, and reasonable valuations after a prolonged slump. The long-overlooked mining space seems poised for a renaissance, offering investors exciting opportunities. The winds appear to be shifting in favor of mining stocks as we embark on the new year and beyond. After years stuck in the doldrums, mining finally looks set to retake the spotlight.

Take a moment to take a look at Haynes International, a leading developer, manufacturer, and marketer of technologically advanced, nickel and cobalt-based high-performance alloys.

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