SHANGHAI, Mar. 25 (SMM) -
Copper concentrate imports in February rose by 8.6% YoY, but were down 80,000 mt from January levels. Chinese smelters signed long-term contracts with overseas enterprises during February, so some traders were taking a wait-and-see attitude and would awaiting further TC announcements. Meanwhile, some traders were concerned copper price volatility will increase financial risks, so they chose not to build stocks after the Chinese New Year holiday. Spot copper concentrate transactions were muted throughout February, and as TC fell, traders and smelters were inclined to buy domestic copper concentrate, causing copper concentrate imports to fall.
Refined copper imports in February were 214,900 mt, down 42.8% YoY, while YTD imports through February were also down YoY, to 458,100 mt. Since refined copper imports during 1H 2012 were relatively high, YoY declines for 1H 2013 will be very steep. The monthly average import volume for January and February 2013 was 229,000 mt, down 4.6% from the average 240,000 mt during 4Q 2012, but this shows current refined copper imports are steady. Import premiums for imported high-quality copper have remained between USD 65-75/mt since January, and since the SHFE/LME copper price ratio has risen noticeably since early March, the monthly average import loss as of last week was below RMB 10,000/mt. As a result, demand for warrants increased, as did imports due to steady financing demand. Refined copper arrivals during March are now expected to be around 230,000 mt.
Copper semis imports during February were 38,300 mt, down 35.1% YoY. Operating rates at downstream enterprises were down due to the Chinese New Year holiday, which caused demand for imported copper semis to fall as well. As downstream demand improves in March, copper semis imports should show growth.