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China’s copper imports hit all-time record in January

Keywords: Tags  China imports, copper, aluminum, aluminum exports, Chinese customs

SHANGHAI — China’s copper imports hit a record high in January as buyers expedited shipments ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday.

Imports of unwrought copper and copper-fabricated products totaled 536,000 tonnes in January, up 53.2 percent from the same month last year and a 21.5-percent increase from December, according to preliminary figures from Chinese customs released Feb. 12.

"This large increase may have been caused by importers wanting to avoid cargoes arriving during the Chinese New Year and bringing their shipping schedules forward to January," one domestic trader said. "February imports are expected to show a decrease."

Meanwhile, London Metal Exchange copper stocks have decreased recently.

"LME inventory may transfer to China and ... the stocks of copper held in China’s bonded warehouses are estimated to amount to more than 600,000 tonnes," one China-based commodity analyst said. "But still, I think the customs figure of 536,000 tonnes of copper imports is too high for January, considering the copper financing business slowed down as we approached the Chinese New Year."

Shanghai copper spot premiums remained at $165 to $175 per tonne in January.

Meanwhile, China exported 320,000 tonnes of unwrought aluminum and aluminum products in January, up 14.3 percent from 280,000 tonnes in the same month last year and a five times the 63,853 tonnes seen in December, with some analysts citing arbitrage opportunities.

"There were arbitrage windows in January due to the high-flying spot premiums in global markets. Some companies just took the chance and re-exported," another analyst said.

A version of this article was first published by AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin.

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