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China's July refined copper imports surge 90% on year boosted by open arbitrage


Chinese July refined copper imports hit 554,979 mt

August imports seen lower as arbitrage window narrows

  • Author
  • Analyst Lucy Tang
  • Editor
  • Kshitiz Goliya
  • Commodity
  • Metals

Singapore — China's refined copper imports hit 554,979 mt in July, spiking 89.9% year on year and 14.2% month on month, data released by the General Administration of Customs on Aug. 31 showed, as several importers in the world's largest copper consumer seized opportunities to buy seaborne materials when an import arbitrage window opened in June.

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With the July data summed up, imports of refined copper totaled 2.5 million mt in the first seven months of 2020, up 33.7% compared to the same period last year, the customs data showed.

But imports in August might be slightly lower compared to July as the window narrowed from mid-July and is almost closed now, market sources said.

China's copper stocks continued to build up due to the rising imports and weaker demand at the domestic market, which might weigh down on domestic prices in the coming months, especially if demand fails to boom during the traditional peak season.

Copper stocks across the Shanghai Futures Exchange's warehouses rose to 170,086 mt on Aug. 28, up 10,573 mt or 6.6% compared to the level on July 31 due to the seasonal lull and rising output in the domestic market, the SHFE data showed.

On the other hand, China's refined copper exports reached 10,436 mt in July, down 67.4% year on year, and 4.6% month on month. The total exports over January-July hit 133,789 mt, down 37.5% compared to the same period of 2019.

Nevertheless, Chinese copper prices hovered at high levels in July amid positive macroeconomic numbers and market concerns of raw materials supply tightness.

S&P Global Platts had assessed Chinese copper import premiums at $55-$70/mt plus London Metal Exchange cash, C&F China on Aug. 28, for LME-registered brands of copper cathode, down $12.5/mt when compared with $70-$80/mt on July 31.