SHANGHAI, Jan. 23 (SMM) – According to the latest SMM survey, the average operating rate during December at major Chinese copper smelters climbed to 92.86%, the highest in 2012. The high rate was in line with China's copper concentrate output released by the NBS, which announced China's copper concentrate output was 580,000 mt in December, up 22.4% YoY. China's refined copper output totaled 6.06 million mt in 2012, up 10.8% YoY.
Downstream consumption, however, has remained slack, an indication that operating rate at downstream companies consuming copper failed to increase noticeably in December. The average operating rate at copper rod producers, which consume more than 50% of copper, fell slightly by 2.84% to 71.45% in December. This made China's high copper supply more pronounced.
SHFE copper stocks remained above 200,000 mt as of January 18. Meanwhile, China's refined copper imports were 238,800 mt in December and amounted to 3.402 million mt for the whole year of 2012, a record high.
High Chinese copper stocks will keep copper price increases in check.