SHANGHAI, May 26 (CBI China) -- A recent CBI survey of 20 copper plate, sheet, and foil smelters (total capacity: 808.1 kt/yr; monthly raw material consumption: 67.3 kt) revealed the following insights:
1) Operating Rates
The average operating rate at the 20 copper plate, sheet, and foil smelters was 67.2% during May, down 13.4% MoM, and down 8.3% YoY. Operating rates at large copper plate and sheet smelters experienced significant declines, down nearly 20% MoM. Chinalco Daye Copper Plate & Strip Company has just begun production trials, dragging down overall operating rates at large smelters. With the exception of two new smelters added to the survey group, the operating rate at large smelters was 74.9%, down slightly. Smelters said as growth rate of downstream orders slowed during late April and early May, smelter finished product inventories grew slightly. Coupled with the approach of a seasonal low consumption period for copper plate and sheet, operating rates are expected to continue falling.
2) Consumption of Raw Materials
Monthly copper consumption at the 20 smelters was 45.2kt, with consumption of refined and scrap copper 34.6 kt and 10.6 kt, respectively, a ratio at 3.25:1.
3) Inventories of Raw Materials
According to the CBI survey, raw material inventories held by the 20 smelters accounted for 15.3% of monthly copper consumption, down 24.6% MoM. As downstream industries entered off-peak seasons, copper prices fluctuated widely during April and May, adding to uncertainty with regard to copper price trends. In this context, downstream copper profile producers focused on consuming existing inventories in order to minimize market risks, also transferring a portion of raw materials to copper profile inventories. Pessimism dominated markets, and most of smelters said they will keep inventories low if copper prices remain high.
4) Scrap Copper Consumption Improves
According to the survey, the consumption ratio between refined and scrap copper was 3.25:1 during May, relatively flat at April ratio of 3.17:1. Meanwhile, the price spread between refined copper and #1 bright scrap copper was in line with CBI’s previous survey, an indication that changes in the consumption ratio and price spread are moving in tandem. Profit margins for scrap copper traders fell significantly again due to continuous declines in copper prices, dampening trader willingness to move cargos. Scrap copper supply tightens if copper prices remain weak, leading to a decline in the consumption ratio as well.
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