SHANGHAI, Jan. 28 (SMM) –
The NBS reported China's domestic copper concentrate output during December was 156,000 mt (metal content), down 13,000 MoM and attributed largely to severe weather in north China. Domestic copper concentrate output is expected to remain around 150,000 mt in January.
According to the NBS, China's refined copper output during December was 580,000 mt, up 22.4% YoY and 9.2% MoM.
According to a recent SMM survey, the average operating rate during December at major Chinese copper smelters was 92.86%, the highest average rate for 2012. Most copper smelters maintained high operating rates since raw material stocks remained sufficient, while others chose to increase output in order to meet production targets. Scrap copper smelters also increased output since the price gap between scrap and refined copper improved.
SMM disputes the NBS claim of a 50,000 mt MoM increase in December output since Daye Nonferrous Metals and Guangxi Nonferrous Metals Group did have new capacity come online during 4Q, but would have contributed little to December's copper output.
SMM reminds investors that downstream consumption has yet to increase significantly and falls before the Chinese New Year holiday, traditionally the low demand period. Although markets have become more confident about post-holiday consumption, copper prices will likely continue fluctuating in a narrow band for the foreseeable future.
According to the NBS, China's copper semis output during December was 1.117 million mt, a monthly level only slightly below the yearly record high of 1.251 million mt set in June. The high output levels in both June and December were a reflection of increased production to meet mid-year and year-end targets. However, based on a recent SMM survey, the average operating rate during December at copper semis producers was 68.93%, down slightly from November, with the rate increasing at copper tube/pipe producers, and stable at copper plate, sheet, strip and foil producers, but falling by 2.84% at copper rod producers. In this context, real copper consumption is unlikely to rebound in the near future despite high copper semis output in December. Post-holiday consumption should increase since most downstream companies which consume copper semis have been undergoing destocking for a long period.