Our Top Commodity Stocks for 2024

Jon Mills shares his mining stock outlook, what to watch out for in China and his favourite picks for this year.

Jon Mills 30 January, 2024 | 4:17AM
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James Gruber: Hi, Jon. You've upgraded your commodity price assumptions. Can you tell me what the changes are?

Jon Mills: Yeah, James. Well, the main one is we've increased our near-term iron ore prices just because near-term futures have gone up materially recently, and that's basically due to strong Chinese steel production. We also increased our copper price, both near-term and also our mid-cycle or long-term assumed price. We just think that inflation is pushing up and stinging the cost curve, and there's also been supply issues in various mines around the world. So, we see long-term copper prices being higher than we previously assumed. Other than that, we've pushed up gold. And probably the other big change is thermal coal prices, which have been very volatile, have come down a bit.

Gruber: Okay. What are your favourite and least favourite commodities going forwards?

Mills: So probably my favourite is gold. Gold prices are still fairly high compared to historical values, but the gold miners themselves have been really affected by worries over interest rates. And more recently, we've had expectations that the central banks have reached peak interest rates. And so, they've been benefiting from that expectation a bit, but they're really still undervalued in our view. As to my least favorite, well, I probably have to go iron ore. I mean, iron ore prices are really strong. But we think over the longer term, they'll come down very materially.

Gruber: What are the biggest risks, upside and downside, for commodities this year?

Mills: Well, when it comes to commodities, you've got to worry about what's happening in China, because it's the biggest source of demand for most commodities. So, in terms of upside risks, if the Chinese government increases stimulus, which it hasn't really done, unlike most times when the economy over there has been slower than they hoped, then that should help commodity demand, whether it's iron ore, copper, what have you. And also, look, Chinese property sector has been struggling and is still struggling. And so, if the government increases support for the property sector over there, then we think that will flow through to iron ore and to a lesser extent copper prices as well.

As for downside risks, well, probably interest rates in the West remaining higher than everyone currently expects. Probably the consensus now is that we're close to, if not at, peak interest rates, and we'll probably see some interest rate reductions, which if so, will flow through to higher economic growth and stronger industrial production, which is bullish for commodities. But look, if inflation stays higher than what the Federal Reserve in the U.S. in particular expects, then we may see higher interest rates for longer.

Gruber: What are your top picks among the mining stocks?

Mills: Well, I guess my first one is Newmont, which is the world's biggest gold miner, for reasons I mentioned earlier in terms of the gold price. But it's also just taken over formerly Aussie listed Newcrest. And so, it's currently digesting Newcrest. It's really been underperforming in terms of production over the past nine months to a year. And that's flowing through to higher costs and lower margins. But we think sooner or later they'll get their act together and production should increase to closer to where it should be, and that should lead to higher earnings and hopefully, a higher share price. The other one I would mention is Whitehaven, so an Aussie thermal coal miner that's also just bought two of BHP's metallurgical coal mines. It remains materially undervalued we think because a lot of investors don't like being exposed to coal.

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Securities Mentioned in Article

Security NamePriceChange (%)Morningstar Rating
Newmont Corp57.28 CAD1.79Rating
Whitehaven Coal Ltd5.00 USD-1.38

About Author

Jon Mills  

is an equity analyst for Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Morningstar, Inc.

Before joining Morningstar in 2021, Mills worked for two years at a Sydney-based financial technology company. Prior to that, he was an analyst for nearly four years at an investment research and fund management company.

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