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Report: China may step up copper exports amid record high stockpiles

China is expected to increase copper exports in the next fewmonths amid record high stockpiles of the red metal, Reuters reported April 7, citingtraders and analysts.

Estimates from He Xiaohui, an analyst at state-backed researchfirm Antaike, pegged China's refined copper stocks at over 1 million tonnes, or11% of China's 9.15 million tonnes of refined copper consumption in 2015. Over 480,000tonnes of copper are probably stored in bonded warehouses in Shanghai, where thered metal is stored without being subject to customs duties, Reuters cited threetraders as saying.

"The situation for copper smelters in China is probablythe worst it has been in 20 years. But they won't admit it. It wouldn't surpriseme in the least (if they start exporting)," a source at an Asian copper producertold Reuters.

While the country's copper export volumes are usually small,an increase in shipments — particularly at a time when Chinese demand is historicallyat its peak — would shake copper producers and investors around the world.

While seasonal demand will still rise this year, the rise islikely to be weaker than that of previous years, according to a trader at a state-ownedsmelter.