China Copper Imports Slump to 20-Month Low on Holidays

Copper imports by China tumbled to the lowest level in 20 months as a week-long holiday slowed customs procedures amid high local inventories.

Inbound shipments of refined metal, alloy and products were 298,102 metric tons last month, the General Administration of Customs said on its website today. That compares with 351,000 tons in January and 484,569 tons a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Total imports by China fell 15.2 percent in February as exports jumped 21.8 percent, customs data showed. Data in the first two months of the year are distorted by the timing of the Chinese New Year holiday, which fell in January in 2012 and was in February this year, according to economists including Louis Kuijs, chief China economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Plc.

“The holiday is the main factor for the decline,” said Fang Junfeng, an analyst at Shanghai Cifco Futures Co. “I don’t see much change on the spot market so far, no signs of particularly strong demand, nor deterioration.”

Stockpiles tallied by the Shanghai Futures Exchange climbed to 226,201 tons last week, the highest since March last year. Inventories at bonded warehouses were as high as 900,000 tons, Zhong Min, vice general manager of Jinrui Futures Co., a unit of Jiangxi Copper Co., on March 6.

Copper for delivery in three months on the London Metal Exchange rose 0.2 percent to $7,777.5 a ton by 11:45 a.m. Shanghai time. The contract has lost 6.6 percent in the past year.

The metal used in cables and wires may trade between of $8,000 and $8,300 this year because of strong demand as China continues to urbanize, Jiangxi Copper Chairman Li Baomin said on March 5.

Scrap-copper imports were at 300,000 tons in February, compared with 380,000 tons in January, according to today’s customs data. Inbound shipments of unwrought aluminum and products totaled 45,478 tons last month, while exports of unwrought aluminum were 19,302 tons.

— With assistance by Helen Sun

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