How to Invest in Copper

Copper isn’t as glitzy or glamorous as gold or silver, but in many ways it feels safer, but how does one invest in copper? Here’s a short list of copper stocks to consider.

Copper has surged from just under $3 per pound to just shy of $4 a pound over the past calendar year. That’s a gain of 33 percent, and that means copper has risen faster than the price of gold over the same period of time. There are a number of real and perceived reasons for the rise, but chief among them has to be the looming threat of inflation. If the dollar continues to fall, the true cost of copper will rise relative to the fall in the dollar. That – coupled with growth in India and China – has investors pouring into the conductive metal ore.

Copper isn’t as glitzy or glamorous as gold or silver, but in many ways it feels safer. Since copper is regularly used in electronics, it’s consumption per person (particularly in the developed world) has been on the rise for decades. So how does one invest in copper?

The simplest way, of course, is through the purchase of copper mining stocks or ETFs. Here’s a quick primer on some of the players in the industry a jumping off point for further research:

1) Try a copper ETN. Want to get some exposure to copper without investing in a single company? Try the iPath Dow Jones-UBS Copper Subindex Total Return ETN (NYSE:JJC). This copper ETN invests in copper futures contracts traded on the COMEX. JJC is up 30.7 percent over the past year with most of that rise (23 percent) taking past over the past three months.

2) Invest in specific mining stocks. ETNs and ETFs offer a measure of protection against the extreme price volatility inherent in investing in a single copper company, but the promise of large gains is also limited. Investing in a moderate-growth copper mine could outstrip performance in the iPath Copper ETN (JJC). Here’s a look at a few copper stocks of note:

  • Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (NYSE:FCX): A mature and stable company with a market cap of $50+ billion, FCX mines copper and gold
  • Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO): Another large company with a diverse portfolio of mines, Rio Tinto extracts aluminum, diamonds, coal, even uranium and gold in addition to copper
  • Southern Copper Corporation (NYSE:SCCO): A focused copper miner, shares in SCCO have surged 20 percent in the past month
  • Augusta Resource Corp. (AMEX:AZC): A smaller, more speculative play on copper and silver, AZC owns the Rosemont copper property in Arizona. The stock’s up just 1 percent over the past month, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pop if the price of copper continues to rise
  • Taseko Mines Limited (AMEX:TGB): A riskier copper play, TGB has see-sawed in price as the Canadian government green-lights then red-lights TGB’s fabled Prosperity mine. The latest news is TGB won’t be allowed to mine the Canadian Prosperity mine, but I’m not so sure of that. If the company does get the green light, this stock will be back over $6 in a day or two. Keep an eye on it for further developments.