SHANGHAI, Jan. 25 (SMM) -- A recent SMM survey of 21 major domestic copper smelters (total capacity: 3.853 million mt/yr) revealed the following insights:
1) Operating Rates Remain High
According to the survey, average operating rates at the 21 copper smelters were 87.0% in January, slightly down from December levels of 87.27%. Large copper smelters reported slight declines in operating rates to around 85%, with those larger smelters running at near full operating rates at the end of the year in order to complete annual production targets. Operating rates at small-and-medium copper producers has begun to increase due to improved rates at smelters using scrap copper as the raw material.
2) Growing Refined Copper Inventories
Recently, domestic copper smelters reported a slight tightening of supplies of copper concentrate and crude copper, but with supply of scrap copper improved. Inventories of refined copper at copper smelters experienced significant increases in December on a monthly basis. Those copper smelters generally say fluctuating copper prices made them cautious with regard to purchases. Weak spot consumption was one major reason behind higher inventories of refined copper, with weather-related transportation problems also contributing to the problem.
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