Are China’s booming copper exports the new normal? – by Andy Home (Reuters U.S. – September 22, 2016)

LONDON – China continued to pump refined copper out into the international market last month to the tune of 57,000 tonnes. Cumulative exports so far this year now total 335,000 tonnes, already exceeding any previous calendar year.

To be sure, the country is still absorbing more refined copper than it is exporting. But it is increasingly clear that the acceleration in outbound flows which started in the second quarter is not a statistical blip.

And with the copper market full of talk about further large inflows of metal into London Metal Exchange (LME) warehouses, the question is whether Chinese exports, once something of a rarity, are becoming the new normal.

Underpinning the changed dynamics of China’s trade in refined copper are even more significant shifts in the country’s copper raw materials trade. Net imports of 175,000 tonnes of refined metal in August were the lowest monthly read in over three years.

But imports of copper concentrates at 1.45 million tonnes (bulk weight, not metal contained) were the third highest on record, eclipsed only in December last year and February this year.

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