To everything, there is a season. Copper has been in season for several years now, so the big question on many Fools' minds is whether that strength can continue, or whether the soft metal is preparing to go soft.
The increased demand from robust housing construction in emerging markets like China has partially been offset by weakness in housing in the U.S. and Europe. However, the combination of persistently low global stockpiles of copper this year and the mounting barriers to entry for new copper suppliers has many industry insiders forecasting strength in copper for several more years.
For investors seeking exposure to the malleable metal, consider a trip south of the border to Southern Copper (NYSE: PCU ) . Although headquartered in Arizona, the company is majority-owned by a Mexican holding company, and has mining operations in both Mexico and Peru. At 49.1 million tons, Southern Copper has more copper in reserve than any other publicly traded company in the world, besting formidable names like Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE: FCX ) and BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP ) . With 69% of 2007 revenue derived from copper, the remaining contributions from molybdenum, zinc, silver, and gold provide some welcome padding from the inherent volatility of the copper market.
To sweeten the pot further, Southern Copper offers a dividend yield of more than 6%, significantly higher than its metal mining peers. Since the dividend yield remains strong on the heels of a 439% share price increase over the past three years, Fools can rest assured that income distributions represent a core commitment of company management.
With a healthy growth pipeline, steady income growth, and a negative $0.23 per pound cash cost for its production (net of by-products), Southern Copper sits comfortably near the top of the heap of potential copper investments.