SHANGHAI, Dec. 9 (SMM) -- A recent SMM survey of 17 copper plate, sheet and foil smelters (total capacity: 756kt/yr; monthly raw material consumption: 52.7kt) revealed the following insights:
1) Monthly Operating Rates
The average operating rate of the 17 copper plate, sheet and foil smelters was 49.9% during December, down 3.1% from October, and down 21.3% compared to the 71.4% rate in the same period last year. The deteriorating US economy will affect more of China's electronic product exports to the US and Europe. Downstream orders continue to decline as New Year approaches, and SMM predicts operating rates at copper plate and sheet smelters will continue to fall.
Operating rates at copper plate and sheet smelters fell to their lowest level since 2007 after copper prices plunged in October. Demand from copper plate and sheet smelters will likely remain weak for the foreseeable future due to declining demand for electronics from the US and Europe, and due to the sluggish automotive industry.
2) Consumption of Raw Materials
Monthly copper consumption of the 17 smelters was 31.42 kt, with consumption of refined and scrap copper at 30.17 kt and 1.25 kt, respectively, a ratio at 25.1:1.
3) Inventories of Raw Materials
According to SMM's survey, raw material inventories held by the 17 smelters accounted for 24.8% of monthly copper consumption, virtually unchanged from October, and still relatively low. Copper prices plummeted last week, contributing to caution on the part of buyers, so inventories will likely remain low for the near future. According to SMM sources, inventories at some enterprises are as high as 6-7 times current production needs due to previous high levels of raw materials and finished products, and due to declining orders.
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