U.S. regulators have finally approved JPMorgan Chase & Co's controversial plan to launch a copper exchange-traded fund backed by actual stockpiles of the metal, dealing a blow to end users who fear the product will wreak havoc on prices.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ruling ends a two-year effort by the U.S. bank to win regulatory support for its fund, which would effectively allow U.S. retail investors to trade physical copper easily for the first time.
It is also a defeat for consumers of the metal, which is used in plumbing and cooling systems. Since the fund will use physical copper cathode as collateral against shares of the fund, effectively removing a chunk of metal from the market, users fear it will affect supplies and inflate prices. U.S. Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, also voiced his opposition to the plan. In July, Levin said the funds would cause a boom-and-bust cycle in the copper market.
Giving its backing for the product, the commission said it did not believe the fund would disrupt the flow of copper for immediate delivery.
"The Commission does not believe that the listing and trading of the shares is likely to disrupt the supply of copper available for immediate delivery, which is what (the copper fabricators) predict would increase the price of copper," it said in its ruling dated Friday and posted on its website on Monday.
Luvata, which makes heat-transfer products such a coil used in air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, was one of five physical copper users that joined forces to fight the proposal.
"It's a sad day for industrial users and consumers. The outcome of the report is a nonsense," said Luvata's senior vice president of sourcing Bob Kickham in an interview.
A spokeswoman for JPMorgan declined to comment.
The ruling will likely be seen as a benchmark for another ETF, the iShares Copper Trust proposed by BlackRock Inc. The SEC is due to rule on that fund by Dec. 24.
A consortium of U.S. copper fabricators - SouthWire Co, Encore Wire Corp, Luvata and AmRod - as well as Red Kite, a large hedge fund and physical trader, have fought hard to get the SEC to block the JPMorgan and BlackRock funds.
They say the removal of up to 183,000 tonnes of copper, which would be used as collateral against shares in the funds, would have a "devastating" effect on the market.
While that is only a tiny part