China’s copper imports in April declined by 12.5% compared to the previous year, according to customs data released on Tuesday. This decrease was attributed to sluggish demand and increased domestic production of the metal.
In April, the country imported a total of 407,294 tonnes of unwrought copper and copper products, which includes anode, refined, alloy, and semi-finished copper. Copper is commonly used in construction, transportation, and power sectors.
Copper demand in China, the world’s second-largest economy, weakened in April due to subdued global demand for its products and continued weakness in the country’s property market.
The manufacturing activity also contracted unexpectedly, and first-quarter profits for industrial firms in China decreased by double digits, indicating an uneven economic recovery. In recent months, shrinking orders and lower profits have forced many copper product producers to reduce production.
Due to the stagnant economic recovery and higher domestic production, copper imports dropped, said Anna Xu, a Shanghai-based lead analyst at Argus Media. In the first four months of this year, unwrought copper imports decreased by 12.6% compared to the same period last year, totaling 1.7 million tonnes.
Copper demand has further declined as it is being used less as collateral to raise finance in the market, analysts said.
Maike, previously China’s largest copper importer, is reported to have used the metal as collateral to finance investments in property. The company applied for pre-restructuring in February after running short of cash last year.
Due to weaker-than-expected demand in China, including the reduced use of copper as collateral in finance, Shanghai Metals Market Director Ye Jianhua predicted a 6.8% drop in refined copper imports in 2023, equivalent to a 250,000-tonne decrease from last year.
However, imports of copper ore and concentrate increased by 11.7% YoY to 2.1 million tonnes last month, driven by higher domestic production of refined metal.
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