China Cuts Copper Imports for 6th Month as Home Output Rises
China, the world's biggest producer and user of refined copper, cut imports for a sixth month to the lowest level since February 2015 as demand slowed and domestic production rose. Copper prices declined.
Purchases of unwrought copper and products fell to 340,000 metric tons in September from 350,000 tons in August and 455,258 tons a year earlier, according to Chinese customs data on Thursday. Imports in the first nine months rose 12 percent to 3.79 million tons. Copper fell as much as 0.5 percent to $4,788 a ton on the London Metal Exchange.
Copper has barely gained this year, lagging other LME metals as supply continues to outstrip demand while China's intake slows. Chinese smelters boosted output by 8.7 percent to a record 5.5 million tons in the first eight months amid high margins, reducing the need for imports.
"The import volume is a bit below our expectation, which reflected sluggish domestic demand even during high season," Li Li, an analyst with Jinrui Futures Ltd., said by phone from Shenzhen.
The nation's weaker economic trade data is also negative for the copper market, adding to concerns over a slowdown in China's property sector, said Li. China's exports dropped 10 percent from a year ago, the most since February, as global demand remained tepid, according to customs. Imports declined 1.9 percent.In lieu of importing refined metal, smelters boosted overseas purchases of copper ore and concentrate by 32 percent to 12.24 million tons in the first nine months. September's imports stood at 1.39 million tons, compared with 1.45 million tons the prior month and 1.21 million tons a year ago. The spot treatment fees Chinese smelters charge miners to process ore was $105 a ton in September, remaining at the highest level since February 2015, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
— With assistance by Winnie Zhu
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