Refined-copper imports by China, the biggest consumer of the metal, declined 4.7 percent in December as higher prices in London reduced the attractiveness of buying overseas to sell at home.
Inbound shipments were 238,828 metric tons last month, compared with 250,666 tons in November, according to data e-mailed by the General Administration of Customs today. Exports climbed for a fourth month to 25,486 tons, the highest since June, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.
A drop in imports and rising exports may help reduce record inventories in China as the country will probably raise output further this year, according to Beijing Antaike Development Co. That would support copper prices in China, which have been lower than those in London for more than a year, discouraging traders from importing the metal to sell it in Shanghai.
“We’ll probably see imports trending down in the next couple of months as exports continue to rise,” Che Hongyun, an analyst at Galaxy Futures Co., said from Beijing. “Huge bonded-warehouse stockpiles are damping imports.”
London Metal Exchange copper stockpiles climbed to 349,275 tons as of Jan. 16, the highest since Jan. 19, 2012. Those in Asia expanded to 136,400 tons as of Jan. 9, the highest since Oct. 13, 2011, bourse data showed.
Copper for delivery in three months on the LME climbed to $8,256.50 a ton on Jan. 3, the highest since Oct. 18, and was at $8,064 at 3:33 p.m. in Shanghai. Metal for delivery in April on the Shanghai Futures Exchange closed 0.3 percent lower at 58,190 yuan ($9,356) a ton, including a 17 percent value-added tax.
“The downside risk to LME prices is that the Chinese bonded stocks suppress imports, at least through the first half,” Gayle Berry and Sha Luo, analysts with Barclays Plc, said in a report on Jan. 18. Bonded warehouse and SHFE combined inventories exceeded 1 million tons at the start of 2013, the report said. Metal tallied by the SHFE totaled 208,568 tons last week, bourse data showed.
Copper-concentrate imports rose for a sixth month to 935,303 tons, the highest since Bloomberg started compiling the data in 2004.
Jiangxi Copper Co., China’s largest producer of the metal, settled the treatment and refining charges with two international miners at $70 a ton and 7 cents a pound, a 10 percent increase, board secretary Pan Qifang said on Jan. 17,