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* April copper imports at 450,000 T vs 420,000 T in March
* End-users say seasonal consumption has boosted spot demand
By Polly Yam
HONG KONG, May 8 (Reuters) - Chinese imports of copper rose 7.2 percent in April from the previous month, extending gains made in March as stronger domestic prices boosted their appeal.
Seasonal consumption also supported demand in the world’s top copper consumer, along with global prices that have fallen more than 9 percent this year.
Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange inched up slightly after the Chinese data was released, trading at $6,669.25 per tonne at 0317 GMT.
Arrivals of copper anode, alloy, refined metal and semi-finished copper products were 450,000 tonnes in April, up from 420,000 tonnes in March, customs data showed on Thursday. April imports surged 52 percent from the year before.
April arrivals were higher than expected by some traders, who had said some importers were delaying term shipments as they expected prices to fall.
The rise could be a result of the buying by China’s stockpiler, the State Reserves Bureau, said Zhou Jie, dealer and senior analyst at China International Futures (Shanghai) Co Ltd.
“SRB buying has already pushed up (yuan) premiums in the domestic market,” Zhou said.
He added that strong premiums for spot refined copper could encourage importers to buy metal in the international market this month to resell domestically.
Seasonal demand has also boosted domestic consumption, traders said.
A factory using refined copper had increased buying of spot metal in the domestic market after its orders had risen 11 percent in April and were up 5 percent in May, a purchasing manager at the firm said.
But supply of spot refined copper had fallen in April due to reduced sales by Chinese smelters with stronger seasonal consumption, traders said.
Large smelters plan to export more refined metal to support domestic prices, while traders said the third-largest producer Jinchuan Group had cut supply by a third last month after a technical problem in March.
Buyers of spot refined copper paid premiums of over 1,000 yuan per tonne on top of the price of front-month copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange to secure physical metal in April, compared to discounts in March, traders said.
Reporting by Polly Yam; Editing by Joseph Radford