China September copper imports jump to second-highest level on record

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s copper imports rose in September to their second-highest level on record, official data showed on Tuesday, as recovering factory activity boosted demand for the metal even after the closure of an arbitrage window made purchases more expensive.

Trucks are seen at a copper mine of Jiangxi Copper in Dexing, Jiangxi province, China December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

Arrivals of unwrought copper and copper products stood at 722,450 tonnes last month, the General Administration of Customs said, close to the record 762,210.9 tonnes imported in July.

Last month’s import figure, which includes anode, refined, alloy and semi-finished copper products, was up 8.1% from August and up 62.3% from September 2019.

Factory activity in China, the world’s top metals consumer, extended solid growth in September.

The country’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis saw copper imports - buoyed by a favourable spread between London and Shanghai prices that has now narrowed - top 2 million tonnes in the third quarter.

“Strong industrial and construction activity continued to drive primary copper demand,” ANZ said in a note. “China’s plan to build strategic reserves is likely to keep imports resilient as well.”

Imports in the first nine months of 2020 were up 41% from a year earlier at 4.99 million tonnes, customs said. That is already more than the 4.98 million tonnes China imported in the whole of 2019.

Graphic - Red hot: China's copper imports beat 2019 total in nine months -

Arrivals of copper concentrate, or partially processed copper ore, were up more than a third from August and a year earlier to 2.14 million tonnes in September, the highest since the record 2.16 million tonnes in November 2019.

ANZ attributed the rise to “easing supply tightness in the concentrate market.”

Meanwhile, China exported 426,469 tonnes of unwrought aluminium and aluminium products in September, up 7.9% from August and the highest monthly total since April, as orders recover after the coronavirus hit demand earlier this year.

January-September exports were still down 18% from a year earlier. China was a net aluminium importer in July and August.

Reporting by Emily Chow and Tom Daly; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Sherry Jacob-Phillips