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UPDATE 1-China February copper imports surge 50 pct from a year ago

* Feb copper imports at 420,000 T vs 440,000 tonnes in Jan

* Feb imports biggest y-o-y pct gain since April 2014

* Lunar New Year cuts imports, but imports still high - analyst

* Copper concentrate imports second-highest ever

By Polly Yam

HONG KONG, March 8 (Reuters) - China’s copper imports in February surged 50 percent from a year ago, the biggest year-on-year percentage gain since April 2014, as favourable import prices prompted traders to increase spot purchases of the metal.

Arrivals of anode, refined metal, alloys and semi-finished copper products stood at 420,000 tonnes in February, customs data showed on Tuesday. That was down 4.5 percent from January’s 440,000 tonnes but a huge jump from last year’s 280,000 tonnes.

“The February imports were lower than January but still quite high given the one-week Chinese New Year holiday,” said Peng Sanhao, analyst at Chaos Ternary Futures.

He added that price differentials between the international and domestic markets had favoured imports in December and January mostly, prompting importers to place some spot orders and the shipments arrived last month.

Copper imports rose 23.3 percent from a year earlier to 860,000 tonnes in the first two months of the year.

Still, traders said demand for spot copper in the domestic market had not improved strongly after the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays.

Copper players were also waiting for signals of the government’s macro policies this year from the annual meeting of China’s parliament, limiting demand for spot imports, traders said. Factories also appeared to have a cash crunch after returning to work from the holidays.

A copper buyer for a state-owned rods manufacturing plant in the eastern province of Zhejiang said he had not seen any signs of demand rising for the firm’s product after the holiday.

Peng at Chaos Ternary said production at rods manufacturing plants in the northeastern province of Shandong and southern province of Hunan had been picking up over the past two weeks.

Copper rods are used in the power sector, the top copper user.

Imports of raw material copper ores and concentrate in February nearly doubled from a year ago, jumping 92.1 percent, to 1.46 million tonnes, the second-highest after a record in December 2015.

The ore imports were up 24.8 percent from January.

Strong treatment and refining charges prompted Chinese smelters to boost orders for imports of copper concentrates in November and December and some shipments arrived in the first quarter, traders said.

The charges are paid by sellers to Chinese smelters, and then deducted from the smelters’ buying price.

Still, exports of aluminium reflected slow activities at factories in the holiday month. Primary aluminium, alloy and semi-finished aluminium products dived 26.3 percent from January to 280,000 tonnes in February.

Aluminium exports dropped 33.3 percent versus a year ago. In the first two months, the outflow fell 22.3 percent year-on-year to 670,000 tonnes.

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