BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s aluminum exports surged to a record high in January, according to customs data released on Thursday, as weak domestic demand led to another bumper month of shipments overseas.
Exports of unwrought aluminum and aluminum products from China, the world’s top producer of the metal, rose to 552,000 tonnes last month, the General Administration of Customs said.
That was up 6.2 percent from a revised figure of 520,000 tonnes for December 2018 and up 25.5 percent from a year earlier, beating the previous record high of 542,700 tonnes set in December 2014.
Aluminum exports from China have now exceeded 500,000 tonnes for seven of the past eight months. At the same time, steel product exports surged by 33.1 percent from a year ago to 6.19 million tonnes in January, the most since June.
The aluminum record comes as the United States, which has slapped tariffs on Chinese aluminum products and urged China to tackle aluminum over-capacity, conducts its latest round of trade talks with China in Beijing.
Jackie Wang, an aluminum analyst at CRU, said it was possible exporters wanted to ship as much metal as possible before March 1, the deadline that the United States has put on reaching a trade agreement with China or it will once again raise tariffs on Chinese imports.
With the Lunar New Year occurring in February, it was also possible more shipments were scheduled in January ahead of the week-long holiday, she added, conceding that the high number was nonetheless a surprise.
Meanwhile, China’s unwrought copper imports came in at 479,000 tonnes last month. That was up 14 percent from 420,000 tonnes in December and up 8.9 percent from 440,000 tonnes in January 2018 to the highest level since September.
Imports into China of Category 7 copper scrap, such as coiled copper cable and waste motors, have been banned since the start of 2019, adding to an existing crackdown on solid waste and a 25 percent tariff on imports of scrap from the United States.
This has left consumers seeking more of the metal in other forms.
China’s imports of copper concentrate, which is processed into refined copper, rose to 1.895 million tonnes in January, the customs data showed, the second-highest monthly figure on record.
The number was up 29.9 percent from an usually low total in December and up 17 percent from a year earlier.
Reporting by Tom Daly; editing by Richard Pullin and Christian Schmollinger