Sydney — There was a time when a sneeze in Santiago would cause the global copper market to catch a cold. Not any more. The first round of Chilean presidential elections on Sunday delivered a surprisingly weak result for frontrunner Sebastian Pinera, a conservative billionaire running on a fiscal consolidation platform. The country’s stocks fell the most in six years and the peso suffered the biggest loss among emerging-market currencies on Monday. But copper barely blinked, with a pretty routine 0.75% gain. That complacent reaction is spookily similar to the way oil more or less shrugged off the palace intrigue in Riyadh earlier this month. Like its Arab peer in the crude market, Chile’s role as the Saudi Arabia of copper is weakening. As recently as 2005, Chile accounted for more than a third of world copper production. The value of exports from Peru, Australia and the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) countries came to just 55% of Chile’s total in 2001. Nowadays, that t...

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