Copper price rally builds after China imports surprise
Copper jumped on Tuesday after a rebound in Chinese imports of the metal indicated the country’s manufacturing sector may be emerging faster than initially thought from the covid-19 slump.
Copper trading in New York rose by more than 1% to $2.3355 a pound ($5,150 a tonne) in early afternoon trade, a four-week high. Last month, the bellwether metal briefly traded below $2.00, levels last seen during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009.
Customs data showed China’s refined copper imports in March rose 13% from a year ago to just under 442,000 tonnes, as factories restarted following covid-19 restrictions.
China consumes more than half the world’s copper and last year cargoes totaled just shy of 5 million tonnes, down 6% from a record high of 5.3 million tonnes in 2018.
March imports of copper concentrate were the lowest since September at 1.78 million tonnes, but still up from the same month in 2019. For the first quarter, 2020 imports totaled 5.55 million tonnes, flat year on year.
Imports of concentrate in 2019 rose 11.6% to 22 million tonnes, the second annual record in a row after years of expanding smelter capacity turned the country into the largest producer in the world.
Argonaut Securities analyst Helen Lau told Reuters there may be supply issues for copper concentrates as mines in South America have closed to prevent the spread of covid-19:
“I think the market should start to shift its focus to supply tightening,” she added, and is expecting to see a decline in concentrate imports from May.