Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Copper imports by China, the largest user, may remain robust in coming months as traders build stockpiles closer to consumers to cash in on arbitrage opportunities, said Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.
Merchants have been increasing inventories at exchange and bonded warehouses to quickly benefit from arbitrage windows between Shanghai and London, which close quickly, and to meet the growing tendency for consumers to live hand-to-mouth, said Nick Trevethan, the bank’s senior commodities strategist in Singapore.
An increase in copper imports may fuel the metal’s 11 percent gain this year in London, after shipments declined for the first time in eight months in January from a record the previous month. Inventories monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange rose last week to the highest ever.
“China’s imports may continue at comparatively high levels for next few months, even if there’s very little financial motivation in terms of a profitable arbitrage window right now,” said Trevethan.
China’s imports of the refined metal, copper alloy and products dropped to 413,964 metric tons in January, the customs agency said Feb. 10. This compares with a record 508,942 tons in December.
Inventories monitored by the Shanghai bourse jumped by more than threefold to 198,202 tons from a 27-month low of 57,655 tons on Dec. 1, bourse data showed Feb. 10.
London Metal Exchange stockpiles fell 19 percent to 313,500 tons in the same period, exchange data showed. LME stockpiles touched a 29-month low of 312,750 tons on Feb. 10. Stockpiles in Asia shrank 60 percent to 24,475 tons during the period.
Copper for three-month delivery dropped 0.2 percent to $8,407 a ton on the LME at 3:20 p.m. in Tokyo.
Stockpiles within China may not be large enough to allow a long destocking cycle, Morgan Stanley said in a Feb. 8 note. The bank estimated stockpiles at bonded warehouses in China at near 350,000 tons, compared with 750,000 tons in early 2011.
About 300,000 tons of copper was probably added to bonded warehouses and merchant inventory in China in the fourth quarter and stockpiles likely continued to expand this year, Barclays Capital said in a Feb. 7 report.
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