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Copper futures hit record high as data center build-up, EV growth fuels demand

Copper futures hit a record high on Wednesday as demand for the base metal stays strong amid a rush to build data centers and the continued electrification of the global economy.

Copper prices on the NYMEX hit $5.02per pound, according to data from FactSet. The metal has gained more than 25% so far this year.

Demand for copper is widely considered a proxy for economic health, with metal being key to the energy transition ecosystem. It is integral to manufacturing electric vehicles, power grids and wind turbines, especially as the global economy electrifies.

Copper demand from electric vehicles and the transportation sector overall is set to increase by around 5% this year, according to forecasts by the Bank of America.

Copper is also a critical material for cables used in data centers, whose growth has fueled demand for the red metal especially as an artificial intelligence boom generates more need for data centers.

"With demand from EVs still growing, albeit a slower pace, the focus has shifted towards the copper needed in the data center build-out," the BofA note added.

Data centers rely on copper for various electrical applications — electrical connectors, busbars, power cables. The International Energy Agency is expecting power demand from data centers to more than double to over 1000 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2026 from 460 TWh in 2022.

The International Copper Study Group (ICSG) has slashed its supply surplus forecasts for the metal this year due to lower than expected mine production.

Copper production growth forecast for 2024 has been cut to 0.5% compared with a 3.7% growth estimated by ICSG last October 2023. This is mainly owed to a slower-than-expected ramp up of production, delays in project commissioning, and revised