HAMBURG May 24 (Reuters) - Copper prices are likely to recover from recent falls as Chinese demand for the metal is expected to continue to rise and euro zone copper demand is no longer a decisive factor, Aurubis, Europe's biggest copper producer, said on Thursday.
Copper prices have fallen substantially because of concerns about the euro zone debt crisis hitting growth, Hamburg-based Aurubis said in a market report. Copper fell in London on Wednesday to a 4-1/2-month low on global growth concerns and worries about Greece's possible exit from the euro zone.
"But is the current development in Europe really so decisive for the global copper market as to justify a sustained, significant price decrease?" Aurubis asked. "To be clear straight way - the answer is no."
The six largest EU copper consuming countries Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Belgium and France have an annual combined demand of about 2.8 million tonnes of refined copper or only about 14 percent of the total 20.5 million tonnes annual global demand, Aurubis said.
Each percentage decrease in growth in the European sub market would cause a demand decrease of 28,000 tonnes of copper per year, it said. This is roughly equal to nine days of cathode (new copper) output at Aurubis, which produces around 1.15 million tonnes of copper cathodes annually, it said.
In contrast, China's 2012 copper demand is expected to be 8.4 million tonnes, it said.
"If a change in demand were to drive down the price, then it would be here (in China,)" it said. "But this has not happened despite weaker growth rates and high regional inventories.
"There is also every indication the Chinese government wants to push its infrastructure investments more strongly again to counteract the economic slow-down.
"Infrastructure projects that were planned for next year are likely to be advanced as an offensive measure. Momentum is expected first and foremost in the construction sector."
There are also estimates that copper inventories in Chinese bonded warehouses have fallen from 640,000 tonnes to 650,000 tonnes at the end of April to currently 500,000 tonnes to 570,000 tonnes, it said.
Meanwhile, the spot market for copper concentrate treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) is quiet and conditions have hardly changed in the last month, it said.
European copper scrap supply is still good and copper product demand is lower than usual for this time of year, it added.