China Copper Imports Rebound as Exports Rise to Five-Month High

Refined-copper imports by China, the biggest user, rebounded from a 15-month low in November as exports climbed to the highest level in five months.

Inbound shipments were 250,666 metric tons last month, 8.7 percent higher than 230,695 tons in October, according to data e-mailed by the General Administration of Customs today. Exports gained for a third month to 20,975 tons, the highest since June, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.

Exports from China are adding to the stockpiles at London Metal Exchange warehouses as domestic production climbed to a record level amid ample raw-material supplies. Rising inventories may curb copper prices, which rose 3 percent this year after falling for 21 percent in 2011.

“There is only moderate improvement in local demand in the fourth quarter, so some companies would rather export than keep the metal within China,” Yuan Zheng, an analyst at East Asia Futures Co., said by phone from Shanghai. “It’s likely that exports will remain at a relatively high level compared with only a few thousand tons in the past.”

London Metal Exchange copper stockpiles rose for an 11th session to 311,925 tons yesterday, the longest rising streak since January 2011. Those in Asia climbed to 120,250 tons yesterday, the highest since October 2011, bourse data showed.

Metal for delivery in three months on the LME declined for six straight days before rising as much as 0.9 percent to $7,840 a ton today.

Record Output

Refined-copper production advanced to a record 531,000 tons last month from 520,000 tons a month earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Copper-concentrate imports rose for a fifth month to 831,606 tons, the highest since Bloomberg started compiling the data in 2004. Treatment and refining charges on the spot market in China rose to $66 per ton and 6 cents a pound from $45 and 4 cents since August, while concentrate inventories at smelters declined in the fourth quarter, Macquarie Group Ltd. said in a report on Dec. 19, citing its survey findings.

Inbound shipments of scrap copper gained to 470,300 tons, the highest since September 2008, customs data showed today.

“It looks like there’s plenty of raw-material supplies to support even higher domestic output,” said Xiao Jing, an analyst at Beijing Capital Futures Co. “Stockpiles in China are likely to remain high.”

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