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China 2012 Metals Demand to Grow at Slower Pace, Group Says

Metal demand in China, the biggest consumer of copper and aluminum, may grow at a slower pace in 2012 and prices may be lower than this year, Wang Huajun, deputy secretary-general of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association.

“It is unlikely to see metals demand to grow at more than 10 percent next year,” given the macroeconomic environment, Wang said at a forum in Shanghai. He did not give comparative figures for this year.

Slower China demand may further pressure metals prices, which have fallen 23 percent this year on the London Metal Exchange LMEX Index, the first decline since 2008. Commodities are set for a “difficult environment” in 2012 amid a possible dissolution of the European Union and a “hard landing” in China, UBS AG said Nov. 30.

Refined copper demand may increase 6 percent, while primary aluminum consumption may grow 8 percent, he said. Lead and zinc consumption may rise by 7 percent and 5 percent, respectively, Wang said.

Imports of copper dropped 9.7 percent through November, according to customs data. China’s foreign trade faces “severe” challenges next year, Wang Shouwen, head of the Commerce Ministry’s foreign trade department, said on Dec. 7.

China’s economy will grow 8.5 percent next year, the least in 11 years and down from 10.4 percent in 2010, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. A reading of 49 for a purchasing managers’ index reported by HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics Dec. 15 indicated China’s manufacturing may contract for a second month. The dividing line between contraction and expansion is 50.

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