Copper will benefit from Chinese stimulus, but iron ore problems run deeper

Julian Zhu, analyst at investment bank Goldman Sachs, said that increased government infrastructure spending in the final quarter of the year will drive up China's commodity consumption.

Zhu said copper and cement would benefit from the estimated $150 billion-plus in new rail and building projects and the resumption of work on projects suspended end-2011, but added that steel and aluminum markets are likely to remain weak due to overproduction according to China Daily.

The spot copper price added almost 13c or 3.7% at $3.65 a pound on Friday hitting a new 4-month high on the news of fresh Chinese economic stimulus. China consumes more than 40% of the world's copper.

Iron ore, a key ingredient used in steelmaking, has been hammered since the start of August with benchmark 62% iron ore fines at China's Tianjin falling from $117.40 a tonne to a low of $86.70 on Wednesday.

On Friday the commodity followed copper higher and enjoyed a rare up day adding 2.3% to trade at $89 a tonne, but fines are still down by more than half over the past 12 months.

The annual seaborne iron ore trade is roughly 1 billion tonnes and close to 60% of the commodity ends up at Chinese ports.

The country’s steelmakers cut inventories at ports and mills by some 13%  during August but it still sits at historically high levels of 111.8 million tonnes according to investment bank Macquarie.

Reuters quotes Helen Lau, senior commodities analyst at UOB-Kay Hian in Hong Kong who estimates imports dropped to roughly  50 million tonnes in August:

"The August figure may still be relatively high since these were orders booked in July or earlier, but I expect a bigger drop to about 30 million tonnes from September onwards given the high inventory in China," she said.

China's monthly imports hovered around 30 million tonnes in late 2008 during the global financial crisis, said Lau.

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