HONG KONG, June 8 (Reuters) - Arrivals of unwrought copper and semi-finished copper product imports to China likely fell slightly in May from the previous month as abundant supplies of bonded metal were bought, traders and analysts said.
Bonded copper filled much of the extra demand for imported refined copper in May as a favourable arbitrage opportunity opened between London and Shanghai prices.
Some spot orders were placed in May for Chilean shipments at lower prices than rates for bonded copper in Shanghai, and those stocks will likely arrive at Chinese ports in late June or early July, traders said.
Total May copper imports by China -- which include anode, refined, alloy and semi-finished products -- are due to be released on Thursday, June 10. Data for refined copper alone, the most popular type in the international and Chinese markets, will be released in late June.
Thursday's data is expected to show May total imports declined to between 410,000 tonnes and 423,000 tonnes versus April's 436,345 tonnes, a fall of 3 to 6 percent.
"May's imports should rise from April given the attractive price ratios. But some copper came from bonded warehouses, therefore the rise could have been masked," said Zhu Yanzhong, an analyst at Jinrui Futures.
He referred to the gap between LME copper MCU3 MCU0 and Chinese prices SCFc3 CU-1-CCNMM and expected arrivals of total copper imports above 400,000 tonnes in May.
"The arbitrage in April was bad and not so much spot contracted shipments likely arrived in May," a trader at an international firm said of refined copper. "The extra demand in May was mostly covered by bonded metal and by orders to Chile which mostly would arrive in July," the trader added.
He expected between 290,000 tonnes and 300,000 tonnes of refined copper may have arrived in Chinese ports last month. Imports of refined copper fell 8.1 percent to 309,772
tonnes in April.
Copper stocks stored at bonded warehouses in Shanghai have fallen in the past month and now probably stand near 200,000 tonnes versus about 300,000 tonnes a month earlier, traders estimate. But Zhu said the data to be released on Thursday may still show a mild arrival rise of about 450,000 tonnes as buying had been aggressive in early May.