China Dec copper imports fall as demand edges down at year-end

Date 1/12/2018 2:55:57 PM Source: Reuters

    BEIJING, Jan 12 (Reuters) - China's unwrought copper imports fell 4.3 percent in December from a month earlier, but still recorded their second-highest level in 2017 as winter restrictions on domestic production kept demand for metal from overseas buoyant.

    Last month's arrivals of unwrought copper, which includes anode, refined, and semi-finished copper products stood at 450,000 tonnes, according to Chinese customs data released on Friday.

    The figure was down from a bumper 470,000 tonnes in November and 8.2 percent lower than in December 2016. 

    Imports for the whole of 2017 were 4.69 million tonnes, down 5.1 percent on the year and the lowest annual number since 2013, customs said.

    Restrictions on industrial output this winter have affected some of China's biggest copper smelters. 

     "Tongling and Jiangxi Copper announced they would cut back their smelting production in December," said Helen Lau, an analyst with Argonaut Securities in Hong Kong. 

     "Production came down but imports didn't pick up, so I think that reflects that the year-end demand is not really that strong, especially in the power sector, and a lot of construction activity has stopped during the winter season."    

    Last month's copper concentrate imports came in at 1.65 million tonnes, customs said. That was down 7.3 percent from the all-time high of 1.78 million tonnes in November, but flat year-on-year, and also the second-highest level seen in 2017.

    Full-year concentrate imports stood at 17.35 million tonnes, up 2.3 percent year on year to a new record.

    Meanwhile, China's exports of unwrought aluminium and aluminium products rose for a second straight month in December, by 15.8 percent from November to 440,000 tonnes. That is also up 12.8 percent from the same month a year earlier.  ACNEXPALUM 

    Exports are now back to July levels after plummetting for four straight months before November's rebound.

    Jackie Wang, an aluminium analyst at CRU in Beijing, said a U.S. decision to investigate imports of Chinese common alloy aluminium sheet could have prompted a short-term rush from U.S. buyers to stock up before the possible imposition of antidumping duties in February. 

    However, this will not become clear until final trade data is released later in the month, she added.

    "A similar situation happened when the United States investigated Chinese  aluminium  foil," Wang said, also noting a favorable arbitrage for Chinese producers last month as Shanghai aluminium prices  SAFcv1  fell.    

    Full-year aluminium exports were 4.79 million tonnes, customs said, up 4.4 percent from 2016 and beating the previous record of 4.76 million tonnes exported in 2015.  



Edited by SHMET