Global economic uncertainty can create a volatile metals sector and lead some investors to bail on the industry altogether.
But doing so would mean missing the huge profit opportunities from rising copper prices in 2012.
With uses in both manufacturing and construction, copper remains one of the world's most versatile metals. When economies are doing well, copper prices do well due to increased demand.
Currently, global economic woes are still around us. Greece is still on the fritz, and European uncertainty is weighing on growth – which caused a slip in copper.
Copper prices fell close to $3.00 per pound in September. They've climbed back to around $3.90 per pound, but are still about 18% from where they were a year ago.
The uncertain European outlook has triggered concern for one of its biggest trading partners as well as copper's ultimate buyer: China.
China is the world's biggest producer and consumer of copper, soaking up 40% of the world's supply.
Europe's economic effect on China has led to fear that the Red Dragon is headed for a cool down this year and that the slowed growth will weigh on copper prices.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts Chinese growth to proceed at a rate of 8.2% this year, down a full percentage point from last year's actual growth of 9.2%.
These concerns, however, are overblown – and off the mark. What's actually going on in the Chinese economy and copper market is supporting rising copper prices.
Here's why you, too, should be bullish on copper.
Ways to Play Rising Copper Prices
The world's major copper producers were hit hard in the fall months when copper prices slipped.
With the last few quarters' of copper output having been relatively stagnant, we'll be seeing the big mining companies working hard to get ready to meet the supply shortage. It looks like they'll spend the first part of this year increasing capital output to ramp up lagging copper production to meet global demand.
As these mining giants work hard to produce more copper, the companies that support their operations will become more vital.
Boom Logistics signed a five-year deal with BHP Billiton to provide maintenance operations at BHP's Olympic Dam in South Australia.
As the fourth largest copper deposit and with direct deliveries to the Chinese stockpile, this recently inked Olympic Dam contract is sure to send Boom Logistics' currently struggling stock up a few notches, making it a good buy for anyone with access to the Australian exchange.
The slight dip in this mammoth company's recent stock price is due to investor concern over slowing Chinese growth uncertainty out of Europe (remember: copper prices trace economic fluctuations) – which presents a good buying opportunity.
Wall Street's one-year price target for FCX is $54.26 – a 42% gain from Monday's $38.26 closing price. Freeport also offers a dividend yield of 2.6%.
Finally, a general way to profit from rising copper prices is the iPath DJ-UBS Copper TR Sub-Index ETN (NYSE: JJC), which tracks the price of copper futures contracts less fees and expenses. The index mirrors copper price performance and is up 13% already this year.
But let's face it... it's not just copper prices that are expected to climb.
Soon virtually every substance vital to modern life will become enormously expensive and profitable for investors who know how to play it.
As commodities and mining expert Peter Krauth explains in his latest report, "today's scarcity and soaring costs could spur the biggest investment gains in history."
To read Peter's latest free report click here.
Michael Adams is a Money Morning contributing writer.