HOTLINE: ‘Oh, no it’s not’ – The Economist in supercycle pantomime

The Economist Intelligence Unit has lent its voice to the ongoing supercycle debate, offering the conclusion that the phenomenon is thankfully not over.

The Economist Intelligence Unit has lent its voice to the ongoing supercycle debate, offering the conclusion that the phenomenon is thankfully not over.

Adapting a theory championed last year by the Financial Times’ former commodities editor Javier Blas, the Economist team declared on December 6 that “the supercycle is not over – it’s just not as super”.

The EIU’s new research follows shortly on from Standard Bank analyst Vaughan Wickins’ confusing assertion that the supercycle is not dead, but only resting, referencing a Monty Python sketch involving a parrot that is, in fact, very much dead.

Bringing some clarity to the issue, the EIU concluded that, despite the appearance of a downturn, the supercycle is not over yet.

“In the recent past, mining firms could sell whatever they produced and that meant, regardless of how much costs continued to grow, they could and did continue to produce. That is no longer the case [...] Mining firms have to become more disciplined. That makes them no different to companies in other sectors going through downturns,” the EIU analysts wrote.

“Eventually, however, the Chinese economy – and other emerging market economies – are going to grow slower both in headline and absolute terms. When that time comes, the current supercycle will be truly and definitively over,” the analysts said.

By which time, the next one will presumably already be fully underway.

In the meantime, First Quantum’s Clive Newall had some useful advice for his peers in the mining industry: “hold your nerve and keep building”.

“The rest of the industry builds projects at the top of the cycle and then sells them at the bottom of the cycle, whereas we try to build through the bottom of the cycle so that we hit the upturn and maximise the return for our shareholders,” Newall was quoted as saying in the report.

editorial@metalbulletin.com

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