China Jan-Feb copper imports rise 5% y/y despite price spike

Copper concs imports 3.79 mln T; aluminium exports 842,125 T

  
Image used for illustrative purpose. Workers are seen at a production line of copper foils used for lithium batteries, at a Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group plant in Tongling, Anhui province, China November 30, 2018. Picture taken November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Workers are seen at a production line of copper foils used for lithium batteries, at a Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group plant in Tongling, Anhui province, China November 30, 2018. Picture taken November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer.

China's copper imports rose 4.7% for the first two months of 2021 from a year earlier, customs data showed on Sunday, indicating stronger demand for the metal than in a pandemic-depressed early 2020 despite a recent spike in prices.

Arrivals of unwrought copper and products into top consumer China were 884,010 tonnes in January and February combined, up from 844,723 tonnes a year earlier, the General Administration of Customs said. 

Customs combines data for January and February due to the distortion of the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, which this year fell in mid-February. The year-earlier period, which had one more day as 2020 was a leap year, saw widespread disruption due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Activity in China's manufacturing sector, a key copper consumer, rose less than expected in January and February as a slight resurgence in COVID-19 cases led to renewed restrictions.

China's imports of copper concentrate, or partially processed copper ore, totalled 3.79 million tonnes for the two months, up 0.9% year on year.

High waves at ports in top copper producer Chile disrupted exports of concentrate and copper metal for most of January, while a 14.5% year-to-date rise in copper prices CMCU3 , which hit a 9-1/2 year high of $9,617 a tonne on Feb. 25, is set to hurt consumption. 

The price spike could leave China, which brought in a record amount of copper in 2020, having to pay an extra $20 billion for its imports this year, the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association said last month. This could have a knock-on effect on copper fabricators and the economy, it said.

China's exports of unwrought aluminium and products, which last year slumped to their lowest since 2017 as the pandemic sapped demand for Chinese metal, rose 25.9% in the January-February period to 842,125 tonnes.

(Reporting by Tom Daly and Yingzhi Yang; Editing by William Mallard) ((tom.daly@thomsonreuters.com; +86 10 5669 2119;))

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