Friday, January 7, 2011

Supply and demand, Chilean copper edition

Want to see what rising commodities prices can do for your emerging market economy? Look no further than Chile and its copper exports to the world. Today Chile's Central Bank released the final scores for the country's commercial balance in 2010 and the copper export component came to a cool U$39.29Bn (yeah, billion with a B), a new record by quite some way. By way of context, copper provided 56.4% of everything Chile exported in 2010 in dollar terms.

To ram it home, if we check out the figures in chart form and also add in the tonnages of copper shipped out of Chile every year, we really get to see how lucky Chile has been in the last ten years. The Y axis numerical scale in this chart is the same for both datasets, but note that the volumes are in millions of tonnes (that fluctuate between 4.6m and 5.6m metric tonnes of copper exported every year) and the prices are in billions of dollars.

So for example, between 2002 and 2010 Chile has added less than one million metric tonnes to its copper exports volume, but thanks to world prices has added thirty-three billion dollars to its copper exports value. But of course, Chile's economic expansion is wholly due to its local politicians and has nothing to do with the wider world of economics...according to the Chilean politicos, at least.