Global copper smelting bounces in May on Chinese strength

Copper smelter. Stock image.

Global copper smelting rebounded slightly in May due to stronger activity in top refined metal producer China, data from satellite surveillance of metal processing plants showed on Monday.

Smelting activity in the rest of the world, however, was still lacklustre, commodities broker Marex and the SAVANT satellite service said in a statement.

Earth-i, which specialises in observational data, tracks smelters representing 80-90% of global production. It sells data to fund managers, traders and miners. It also publishes a free monthly index of global copper smelter activity.

Its global copper dispersion index, a measure of smelter activity, rose to an average of 46.2 in May from 44.0 in April, which was the lowest since March 2021.

The China dispersion index surged by 10.6 points to 52.7 in May, but the index outside of China dropped to its lowest reading in over two years.

A measure of 50 points indicates that smelters are operating at the average level of the past 12 months. There is also a second index showing the percentage of active smelters.

“The rebound in copper and nickel smelting activity in China is noteworthy against the bearish macro environment that has seen rumours emerge of an impending stimulus package from the government,” said Guy Wolf, global head of analytics at Marex.

In nickel, the global dispersion index fell to 41.8 in May from 43.3 in April despite gains in China.

The Chinese nickel pig iron (NPI) index bounced to 47.1 in May from 37.9 in April, its lowest since February 2022.

Outside of China, ferronickel operations continued to struggle due to increased competition from NPI, a lower-nickel-content substitute for refined nickel, and high electricity costs in Europe, the statement said.

(By Eric Onstad; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)


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