China’s copper imports continue at record pace on lower prices

Image courtesy of Codelco

China imported 26% more copper in August than a year earlier, customs data on Wednesday showed, as lowered prices and stocks amid power rationing enhanced the appetite for foreign supply.

Unwrought copper and copper product imports into China – including anode, refined, alloy and semi-finished copper products – totalled 498,188.60 tonnes in August. That compared with the year-earlier volume of 394,017.10 tonnes, a two-year low.

The annual increase was attributed to cheaper prices in July and August that sparked buying interests among producers.

Three-month copper prices on the London Metal Exchange closed at $7,801.50 a tonne on the last trading day of August, up 8.5% from a 20-month low hit on July 15 but still down 19.7% from the beginning of this year.

“Lower copper prices in July and August sparked buying activities. Also, the open arbitrage between Shanghai and London led to more cargos inflow,” said He Tianyu, a copper analyst at CRU Group.

Moreover, tightening availability in the domestic market also sparked Chinese imports.

Shanghai Futures Exchange copper warehouse stocks dropped to a seven-month low of 31,205 tonnes on Aug. 19.

This came after production fell short of expectations because some parts of China, including Anhui and Zhejiang provinces, rationed electricity to industrial users amid a heatwave. Copper producers were affected.

August’s copper imports were up 7.4% from the previous month’s 463,693.8 tonnes.

Despite supply interruptions, the market was under downward pressure throughout August. Demand was tepid amid troubles in China’s property sector and the hawkishness of the US Federal Reserve.

Imports of unwrought copper and copper products in the first eight months totalled 3.90 million tonnes, up 8.1% from the same period last year.

The country exported 540,448.9 tonnes of unwrought aluminum and aluminum products, including primary, alloy and semi-finished aluminum products, in August, up 10.2% from 490,285.80 tonnes the same month last year.

(By Siyi Liu and Dominique Patton; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Shri Navaratnam)

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