Imports of refined copper by China, the biggest user, rose in March from the lowest level in 19 months, while exports expanded for a seventh month.
Inbound shipments were 218,823 metric tons, data from the General Administration of Customs showed today. That was percent 1.8 higher than 214,949 tons arrivals in February, according to Bloomberg calculations based on customs data. Exports climbed to 60,642 tons from 38,569 tons a month earlier, the data showed.
Rising in Chinese exports and lackluster domestic demand may add to London Metal Exchange inventories and weigh on prices. LME copper stockpiles expanded to 614,350 tons on April 19, the highest since September 2003, with the amount stored in Asia rising to a record 264,975 tons, bourse data showed.
“Domestic consumption isn’t good, compared with the seasonal boom in the past,” Jia Zheng, an analyst at East Asia Futures Co., said by phone from Shanghai. “We’ll probably see a further rise in exports in coming months as some smelters choose to export refined metal for better prices through toll trade.”
Toll trading allows some major smelters to ship the metal without paying an export duty if they use imported ores and concentrates to produce refined metal.
Inventories tallied by the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell to 223,663 tons last week, the lowest in two months. Stockpiles rose to 247,591 tons at the end of March, the highest since Bloomberg started to compile the data in 2003.
Refined-copper imports in the first quarter fell 36 percent from a year ago to 676,943 tons, while exports surged to 125,423 tons, more than four times from a year ago, according to the customs office. Copper-concentrate imports by China climbed to 777,838 tons from 681,148 tons a month earlier, customs data showed.
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