HONG KONG, March 3 (Reuters) - Some term Chilean copper shipments due to be loaded this month to China may be delayed after a massive weekend earthquake hit the top producing nation of the metal, traders and analysts said on Wednesday.
Delays of the March loadings could cut arrivals to China in April and ease supply in the world's top copper market.
Chile's copper mines appeared to have emerged almost unscathed from Saturday's massive 8.8-magnitude quake and its key copper exporting ports in the far north were not affected. But the copper-exporting port of San Antonio was operating two of its eight piers.
"March loadings may be affected," said Xiao Jing, metals analyst at Beijing Capital Futures. "If there is an impact, that should be seen in April," she said, referring to arrivals in China.
Traders said some copper exports were from ports in the middle of Chile and those could be affected.
A Chinese merchant's 3,000 tonnes of term refined copper cathode scheduled to leave a Chilean port on Feb 27 has been delayed, a manager at a large trading house said of a client's shipment.
"For our term copper, we have not received any notices from suppliers," the manager said.
A trader selling Chilean copper to China said Chilean producers, including the world's top producer Codelco, were still trying to gather information internally to inform clients whether their term copper to China would be delayed.
"We have not received any information yet. We should know by Friday," the trader said, adding his firm had one shipment due to leave for China on Thursday or Friday.
International copper prices <MCU3> jumped to a five-week peak of $7,600 on Monday on worries about copper supply after the quake, but retreated to $7,439 <MCU3=LX> on Wednesday as the fears subsided.
Chinese spot copper has been traded at discounts from the nearest month <SCFH0> on the Shanghai Futures Exchange due to increased supply from domestic smelters, even though arrivals of term copper from Chile may fall in coming months, traders said.
Smelters had maintained normal production during the Lunar New Year in mid-February and many fabricators had closed shops until this week, increasing metal supply in the spot market.
Copper produced by large smelters such as Jiangxi Copper was offered at discounts of 450-580 yuan per tonne of the March contract last week and of 370-420 yuan on Wednesday, traders said.
"Discounts are big. So we bought 2,000 tonnes today," a purchasing manager at a fabricator said.
Supply of imported copper in Shanghai was also abundant given merchants had taken bonded stocks to the spot market in the past several weeks due to attractive margins.
The copper that had arrived in Shanghai during the second half had built up in bonded warehouses, temporarily avoiding China's 17 percent value-added tax, because importers did not want to sell the metal at then weaker Chinese prices.