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Copper price falls on China power squeeze worries

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Copper prices fell on Wednesday as investors reduced risk exposure amid uncertainty caused by a power curtailment in China.

The most-traded November copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell 0.9% to 68,600 yuan ($10,609.00) a tonne.

On the Comex market in New York, copper for delivery in December fell 0.5% from Tuesday’s settlement price, touching $4.222 per pound ($9,288 per tonne) midday Wednesday.

Click here for an interactive chart of copper prices

New York copper price

Power restrictions in China have hurt supplies of some metals in recent months, but electricity curbs recently spread to more downstream sectors and dampened manufacturing, hurting the demand for metals.

China is going on a week-long holiday starting October 1, with investors squaring positions ahead of the break to reduce exposure in a volatile market environment.

Copper prices will average more than $4 a pound this year, Diego Hernandez, head of Chilean mining society Sonami, told Bloomberg in an interview Tuesday.

“The supply-demand equation for copper is very tight, even amid market-wide uncertainties fueled by Chinese property turmoil and a global energy crunch,” said Hernandez, a former chief executive of Codelco and Antofagasta Plc.

“Supply and demand in the coming years should remain fairly tight so prices should be not extraordinary, but good — higher than long-term projections.” 

Hernandez doesn’t see any imminent risks for the Chilean copper industry from a global energy crunch, although rising diesel could push up costs. 

Treatment charges

China’s top copper smelters on Wednesday set floor treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) for the fourth quarter at $70 per tonne and 7 cents a pound, three sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The fourth-quarter floor, decided at a meeting of the state-backed members of the China Smelters Purchase Team (CSPT) in Shanghai, is up 27.3% from $55 per tonne and 5.5 cents a pound in the third quarter and up from $58 per tonne and 5.8 cents per pound a year earlier.

Miners pay TC/RCs to smelters to process copper concentrate into refined metal, offsetting the cost of the ore. The charges, which contribute to determining the profitability of smelters and miners, rise when more supply is available meaning smelters can demand better terms.

“The global concentrate market shifted to a surplus in the second half of this year, with mine projects commissioned and ramping up production. This supported spot TCs in China to increase rapidly in July and August,” Wang Ruilin, senior copper analyst at CRU Group, said, adding the upward momentum weakened in September.

(With files from Reuters and Bloomberg)