Goldman Sachs Maintains Crude Oil, Copper Forecasts Even as Risks Increase

Brent crude and copper may rally as global economic growth led by emerging markets remains adequate to drive an expansion in raw-materials demand, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) said, sticking with forecasts for price gains.

“We remain constructive on commodities,” Allison Nathan, an analyst at Goldman for more than a decade, said in an interview today. Still, “risks to our bullish views have risen,” said Nathan, citing Europe’s sovereign-debt problems and a “mixed bag” of economic data from the United States.

Goldman’s position contrasts with the outlook from Societe Generale SA’s global asset-allocation team, which said commodities are in a “danger zone” as growth slows, according to a report distributed yesterday. The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Spot Index of 24 commodities has shed 14 percent since April 11 on speculation that the global recovery is faltering.

“We’ve seen emerging-markets demand for key commodities, including oil, holding up well,” Nathan said in Singapore. There haven’t yet been signs that the economic woes in developed markets are spreading to emerging economies, she said.

Goldman correctly advised investors to sell oil and copper in April, then turned bullish in May before prices rebounded. Last month, the bank forecast gains for Brent crude, zinc, and other commodities over the next 12 months, analysts led by Jeffrey Currie said in an Aug. 8 report.

Copper may climb to $11,000 per metric ton, while Brent gains to $130 a barrel, the report said. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange, which reached a record $10,190 per ton in February, traded at $8,660 per ton at 4:10 p.m. in Singapore, while Brent was at $112.60 per barrel.

Greek Rescue

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday that they are “convinced” Greece will stay in the euro area, boosting equity and metals prices. European governments are aiming to ratify a July 21 accord to bolster a bailout fund and extend a second rescue to Greece.

Investor skittishness over the spread of Europe’s debt crisis combined with signs that U.S. growth may be slowing have roiled markets worldwide. Recent data have shown U.S. retail sales were unchanged in August, while the economy generated no jobs and earnings fell.

“If we see weakness spreading on a global basis, that would be a catalyst to expect a weaker demand environment and potentially weaker prices relative to our forecast,” Nathan said in the interview. ‘If there was a crisis in the European banking sector, a crisis akin to 2008 could occur and that would have a large impact on commodity prices.”

China Forecasts

Still, Goldman economists forecast that China’s economic growth may be 9.2 percent next year, compared with an estimate of 9.3 percent for this year, according to Nathan. The nation is the world’s largest user of metals and energy.

Low inventories of aluminum, copper and steel in China are an indicator that demand in the country “isn’t that bad,” Julian Zhu, a Goldman analyst, said at a media briefing in Singapore today. Traders and investors have been concerned that rising interest rates and a credit-tightening policy in the nation may lead to slower consumption of raw materials.

“The Chinese government is very flexible and if they need, they can reverse the tightening policy very fast,” said Zhu. “This could be very supportive to demand for commodities because investment by local governments at all levels will see a Rebound,” said Zhu.

Societe Generale’s report said that there may be a “meaningful drop” in prices of so-called cyclical commodities such as oil and copper. Gold may rally from an increase in risk aversion, according to the report.

To contact the reporters on this story: Chanyaporn Chanjaroen in Singapore at cchanjaroen@bloomberg.net; Christian Schmollinger in Singapore at christian.s@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Poole at jpoole4@bloomberg.net; Alexander Kwiatkowski at akwiatkowsk2@bloomberg.net

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