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Generalist funds flow back into mining as prices, inflation climb

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Surging prices for commodities, stronger balance sheets and rising inflation have lured back to mining stocks generalist investors that for years shunned the sector, data shows.

Shares in diversified mining companies Rio Tinto, BHP, Anglo American and Glencore have doubled in the last year, as policy support measures in advanced economies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic stoked inflation.

Commodities serve as a hedge against inflation, meaning their prices are expected to stay strong, and at the same time the transition to a low carbon economy and channelling of stimulus funds into infrastructure is generating demand for raw materials.

The size of natural resources mutual and exchange-traded funds tracked by Refinitiv Lipper data exceeded $70 billion by the end of April for the first time since September 2018 at $72.4 billion. (Graphic: Assets and flows of funds)

Many generalist investors – or money managers whose focus is not solely on mining companies – fled the sector when a commodity boom crashed in 2015 as China’s appetite for raw materials slowed down.

“The inflation fears and metals price action has brought investors back to mining stocks,” said London & Capital head of equities Roger Jones, whose fund holds mining stocks.

A Bank of America survey of fund managers published in May found that a net 21% of European investors participating in it were overweight metals and mining versus a net 56% that said they were underweight a year ago.

The survey found fund managers were underweight defensive sectors such as utilities and pharma.

This is not only visible in Europe, as several hedge funds have piled into Canada-listed Teck Resources Ltd, for example, U.S. regulatory filings show. (Graphic: Miners vs FTSE, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/ygdpzognwvw/minersvsftse.JPG)

AVOIDING BOOM AND BUST

Miners have learnt a hard lesson since the last boom, when they overpaid by billions to buy assets, sometimes in complex jurisdictions or difficult geologies.

By maintaining discipline on costs, spending and acquisitions, they cut debt and gave shareholders dividends that have become loftier as commodity prices rose.

Prices for copper, which is expected to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the lower carbon economy, hit a record this month, while battery minerals nickel, lithium and cobalt have also jumped.

Sell-side analysts have hailed the latest rally as the beginning of a supercycle, but some fund managers caution against too much enthusiasm, as supply disruptions caused by the COVID-19 restrictions ease, potentially curbing prices.

“Supply chains are still not working as smoothly because of COVID lockdowns, so we have to wait until there is a normalisation to get a better idea of what is really driving commodity prices,” said Ben Ritchie, head of European equities at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

Fund managers also said China was not consuming as much metal as it was during a 2000-2008 supercycle, and mining stocks are trading on low multiples compared to tech for example, which suggests broader scepticism that prices can be sustained.

Another concern for investors has been the level of risk associated with mining that has led to environmental disasters and legal action.

As ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria have shot to prominence, miners have drawn up sustainability reports and ethical and green targets that may reassure some investors.

“ESG has been a challenge for miners to adapt to, but it is arguably the best thing that has happened to the mining sector,” said Janus Henderson fund manager Tal Lomnitzer, whose funds hold Anglo American and copper miner Freeport-McMoRan.

“Decarbonisation should bring in those investors who would otherwise avoid the sector.”

 

(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala and Clara Denina; additional reporting by Maiya Keidan in Toronto. Editing by Barbara Lewis)

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NATO takes tough line on China at first summit with Biden

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NATO leaders designated China as presenting “systemic challenges” in a summit communique on Monday, taking a forceful stance towards Beijing at Joe Biden‘s first summit with an alliance that Donald Trump openly disparaged and ridiculed.

The new U.S. president has urged his fellow NATO leaders to stand up to China’s authoritarianism and growing military might, a change of focus for an alliance created to defend Europe from the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The language in the summit’s final communique, which will now set the path for alliance policy, comes a day after the Group of Seven (G7) rich nations issued a statement on human rights in China and Taiwan that Beijing said slandered its reputation.

“China’s stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security,” NATO leaders said in a communique after their summit.

Biden also told European allies the alliance’s mutual defence pact was a “sacred obligation” for the United States – a marked shift in tone from his predecessor Trump, who had threatened to withdraw from the alliance and accused Europeans of contributing too little to their own defence.

“I want all Europe to know that the United States is there,” said Biden. “NATO is critically important to us.”

BALANCING THREAT

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, at her last summit of the alliance before she steps down in September, described Biden’s arrival as the opening of a new chapter. She also said it was important to deal with China as a potential threat, while keeping it in perspective.

“If you look at the cyber threats and the hybrid threats, if you look at the cooperation between Russia and China, you cannot simply ignore China,” Merkel told reporters. “But one must not overrate it, either – we need to find the right balance.”

Biden said both Russia and China were not acting “in a way that is consistent with what we had hoped”.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said China’s growing military presence from the Baltics to Africa meant nuclear-armed NATO had to be prepared.

“China is coming closer to us. We see them in cyberspace, we see China in Africa, but we also see China investing heavily in our own critical infrastructure,” he said, a reference to ports and telecoms networks. “We need to respond together as an alliance.”

Stoltenberg also said the leaders had agreed to increase their contributions to the alliance’s small common budget. The vast bulk of military spending in NATO is handled separately by member countries.

G7 nations meeting in Britain over the weekend scolded China over human rights in its Xinjiang region, called for Hong Kong to keep a high degree of autonomy and demanded a full investigation of the origins of the coronavirus in China.

China’s embassy in London said it was resolutely opposed to mentions of Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, which it said distorted the facts and exposed the “sinister intentions of a few countries such as the United States”.

“China’s reputation must not be slandered,” the embassy said on Monday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, arriving at the summit, said there were both risks and rewards with Beijing.

“I don’t think anybody around the table wants to descend into a new Cold War with China,” he said.

DEEP ECONOMIC TIES

From China’s investments in European ports and plans to set up military bases in Africa to joint military exercises with Russia, NATO is now agreed that Beijing’s rise deserves a strong response, although envoys said that would be multi-faceted.

Allies are mindful of their economic links with China. Total German trade with China in 2020 was more than 212 billion euros ($257 billion), according to German government data. Total Chinese holdings of U.S. Treasuries as of March 2021 stood at $1.1 trillion, according to U.S. data, and total U.S. trade with China in 2020 was $559 billion.

Biden will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Geneva.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said that Russia was trying to “swallow” Belarus and that NATO needed to be united in deterring Moscow. Nauseda also said the Baltic nations would push for more U.S. forces in their region to deter Russia.

($1 = 0.8255 euros)

(Additional reporting by Mark John, Sarah Young and Elizabeth Piper in London, Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, and Kate Abnett, Gabriela Baczynska, Marine Strauss and John Chalmers in Brussels; Editing by Catherine Evans, Peter Graff, Bernadette Baum and Alex Richardson)

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Canada selects HSBC, TD Securities as advisors for inaugural green bond issue

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The Government of Canada has selected HSBC and TD Securities as structuring advisors for its first ever issue of green bonds, expected in the current fiscal year that began in April, HSBC said in a statement on Monday.

HSBC and TD Securities were hired to advise on the design of Canada‘s green bond framework, assist in the development of the on-going program and support a successful inaugural issuance, the statement added.

 

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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Oil prices rise to over two-year high as demand improves

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CNRL

Oil prices rose on Monday, hitting their highest levels in more than two years, supported by economic recovery and the prospect of fuel demand growth as vaccination campaigns in developed countries accelerate.

Brent rose 34 cents to $73.03 a barrel by 12:56 p.m. EDT (1656 GMT). Earlier in the session, it reached $73.64 a barrel, its highest since April 2019.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate rose 27 cents to $71.18 a barrel. It hit a session high of $71.78 a barrel, its highest since October 2018.

“The two leading crude markers are trading at (almost) two-and-a-half-year highs amid a potent bullish cocktail of demand optimism and OPEC+ supply cuts,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.

“This backdrop of strengthening oil fundamentals have helped underpin heightened levels of trading activity.”

Motor vehicle traffic is returning to pre-pandemic levels in North America and much of Europe, and more planes are in the air as anti-coronavirus lockdowns and other restrictions are being eased, driving three weeks of increases for the oil benchmarks.

The mood was also buoyed by the G7 summit where the world’s wealthiest Western countries sought to project an image of cooperation on key issues such as recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the donation of 1 billion vaccine doses to poor nations.

The International Energy Agency said on Friday that it expected global demand to return to pre-pandemic levels at the end of 2022, more quickly than previously anticipated.

The IEA urged the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, to increase output to meet the rising demand.

The OPEC+ group has been restraining production to support prices after the pandemic wiped out demand in 2020, maintaining strong compliance with agreed targets in May.

 

Graphic: Oil Demand/Supply balance – 

 

On the supply side, heavy maintenance seasons in Canada and the North Sea also helped prices stay high, said Rystad Energy analyst Louise Dickson.

“In June 2021, Rystad Energy estimates more than 330,000 barrels per day of oil and condensate supply is offline at Canada oil sands projects, and 370,000 bpd of supply offline in the North Sea,” Dickson said.

U.S. oil rigs in operation rose by six to 365, the highest since April 2020, energy services company Baker Hughes Co said in its weekly report. [RIG/U]

It was the biggest weekly increase of oil rigs in a month, as drilling companies sought to benefit from rising demand.

 

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York; additional reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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