China September copper imports rise to eight-month high, aluminum exports fall

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s copper imports rose 10.15% in September from a month earlier, to their highest in eight months, data from the customs showed on Monday, as higher prices in Shanghai drew shipments to the world’s top consumer of the metal.

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

Arrivals of unwrought copper, including anode, refined and semi-finished copper products into China, stood at 445,000 tonnes last month, the General Administration of Customs said.

That was up from 404,000 tonnes in August but down 14.6% from a bumper 521,000 tonnes in September last year, which was the highest monthly total since March 2016.

Over September, Shanghai copper prices SCFcv1 edged up 0.7% and have averaged higher than London prices in other recent months, giving traders an opportunity to profit from the price difference by shipping metal into China.

“The comparison between Shanghai and London prices provided more favorable conditions for copper imports,” said Yang Changhua, copper analyst with research house Antaike, adding that demand for unwrought copper also increased as copper scrap supplies fell recently.

Copper stocks in bonded warehouses in China slumped to 295,500 tonnes by Sept. 30, the lowest since at least 2013, according to Refinitiv Eikon data, implying a tighter market as a crackdown on scrap imports boosted demand for other forms of copper.

Drawdowns in bonded stocks are reflected in China’s unwrought copper import numbers.

China’s factory activity shrank for a fifth month in September, pointing to persistent pressure on the world’s second-biggest economy and its copper-intensive manufacturing sector amid the bruising trade war with the United States.

Imports of copper concentrate, or partially processed ore, came in at 1.581 million tonnes, the customs data showed, down 12.9% from 1.815 million tonnes in August.

Also, China’s aluminum exports fell 6.7% in September from the previous month, underlining the impact of two key smelter outages in August.

The world’s top aluminum producer last month exported 435,000 tonnes of unwrought aluminum, including primary metal, alloy and semi-finished products.

That compared to exports of 466,000 tonnes in August and was down 14.2% from 507,000 tonnes in September 2018.

Reporting by Tom Daly and Min Zhang; Editing by Kim Coghill and Tom Hogue