SHANGHAI, Jun. 18 (SMM) –
According to China Customs, China's imports of scrap copper in May were 420,000 mt, up significantly by 13.2% MoM and 5.3% YoY. Scrap copper imports have experienced big changes in recent months, but SMM does not believe imports accurately reflect actual domestic scrap copper supply and demand. The price gap between scrap and refined copper has been falling since early 2012 and is near RMB 600-800/mt, down from RMB 1,500/mt in early 2012 and an indication that scrap copper supply is extremely tight. During May, domestic traders chose to constantly cut purchase volumes of high-quality scrap copper due to the unfavorable SHFE/LME copper price ratio, but recently began to purchase large quantities of low-quality scrap wires and motors just to maintain operations. These low-quality scrap copper imports have relatively low unit prices and more upward room for premiums, but have skewed scrap copper import data. Despite the increase in scrap copper imports during May, spot scrap copper supply did not improve, with the supply of high-quality scrap copper remaining tight. Goods recently ordered by domestic scrap copper importers will likely arrive at ports around July, so domestic scrap copper supply will not increase significantly in the near term.
Unwrought Copper and Copper Semis
According to China Customs, China's imports of unwrought copper and copper semis in May were around 420,000 mt, up about 44,000 mt MoM, and SMM estimates total refined copper imports were around 300,000 mt. China's imports of unwrought copper and copper semis did not fall as markets generally expected, which SMM believes was due to the following reasons. First, SHFE copper prices fell slower than LME copper during May, helping the SHFE/LME copper price ratio rise significantly and cut losses for spot imported copper to less than RMB 1,000/mt in late May, down from RMB 4,000/mt early in the month. As a result, the average monthly loss in May was down by nearly RMB 1,000/mt from April. As LME copper prices fell to USD 7,500/mt in mid-May, importers continued to import. Second, since a portion of copper was exported during May as planned and since imported copper entered domestic markets following improvements in the SHFE/LME copper price ratio, copper stock pressures at Chinese bonded warehouses eased. In this context, China's imports of unwrought copper and copper semis during May actually rose from April levels.