China’s unwrought copper imports fall m/m in May on record-high prices

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China’s copper imports fell 8% in May from the previous month, customs data showed on Monday, as record-high prices further eroded buying interest in the world’s top consumer of the metal.

Imports of unwrought copper and copper products fell for a second consecutive month to 445,725 tonnes in May, the General Administration of Customs said.

That was down from 484,890 tonnes in April but up from 436,030 tonnes in May 2020.

Benchmark London copper prices rose 4.4% last month, hitting an all-time peak of $10,747.50 a tonne on May 10. Prices have hovered at uncomfortably high levels for consumers for most of this year, fueled by a post-lockdown resurgence in demand and easing liquidity globally.

Growth in China’s manufacturing sector, a key copper consumer, slowed slightly in May as raw materials costs rose at their fastest pace in over a decade.

Copper inventories in Shanghai bonded warehouses rose to 415,500 tonnes by the end of May, the most since July 2019.

Continued high prices will have an impact on future imports, said CRU copper analyst He Tianyu, adding that despite the monthly declines, overall import levels are still relatively high.

“May imports are still relatively high due to delayed logistics issues from January to April,” said CRU copper analyst He Tianyu.

“Overseas orders are also being transferred to China as there are still Covid-19 impacts in overseas markets.”

Imports of copper concentrate, or partially processed copper ore, in May totalled 1.95 million tonnes, up from 1.921 million tonnes in April, customs said.

Meanwhile, China’s exports of unwrought aluminum and aluminum products were 439,097 tonnes in May, it said.

That compares with 437,284.50 tonnes in April, and 382,934.50 tonnes in May 2020. (Reporting by Tom Daly and Emily Chow; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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