China's Copper, Zinc Imports Jump to Multiyear Highs in December

  • Copper purchases most since at least '08, zinc most since '09
  • Buyers step in as prices slump to lowest levels since 2009

China’s imports of copper and zinc surged last month as buyers took advantage of low prices and bought in anticipation of further falls in the yuan.

The world’s biggest consumer of metals imported the most refined copper since at least 2008, while zinc shipments rose to the highest since May 2009, according to data from the country’s customs administration. China took in more material as prices on the London Metal Exchange slumped to their cheapest since 2009 and the country’s currency weakened.

“Quite clearly the weak LME prices attracted buying,” David Wilson, an analyst in London for Citigroup Inc., said by phone. Demand for copper in the electricity grid and from the auto sector was stronger late in the year, while zinc buyers may have been concerned about supply tightening in 2016, he said.

Purchases of copper increased 34 percent from a year earlier to 423,181 tons, while imports of zinc rose more than fourfold to 94,434 tons, a volume not seen since the world was emerging from the financial crisis.

Importers also bought more metal as the yuan’s slide against the dollar fueled concerns that depreciation would deepen, eroding China’s purchasing power, according to analysts from SMM Information & Technology Co. and Maike Futures Co. in Shanghai.

Inbound shipments of refined nickel climbed more than sixfold in December to 34,506 tons, while they rose 125 percent for the full year to 292,095 tons.

London copper rose 0.4 percent by 5:25 p.m. in Shanghai to $4,436.50 a ton.

— With assistance by Martin Ritchie

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.