(Adds details on supplies, context on market)
NEW YORK, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Freeport-McMoRan Inc Chief Executive Officer Richard Adkerson said on Tuesday he expects relatively tight supplies due to mine delays, falling ore grades and spending cuts to support copper prices even as the market remains in oversupply this year.
In a conference call with analysts following the release of fourth-quarter earnings, he said the relentless sell-off in crude oil has dragged the copper market into its biggest rout in years, rather than a deterioration in the supply and demand outlook.
The fundamentals of its business remains “relatively strong”, he said.
“Grades are falling, people are constraining capex, all of this will be very supportive of copper prices as we go forward,” he said.
Still, he expects the market will be in surplus this year, although the size will be much smaller than expected due to disruptions in mine output and below-average exchange inventory.
While China’s growth rate is slowing, the world’s second-largest economy is still buying copper, he said, pointing to double-digit growth in imports last year, domestic cathode production setting new records and the state grid plans to increase spending. (Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bernard Orr)