Column: Copper price slump brings Chinese buyers out in force – by Andy Home (Reuters – September 27, 2022)

LONDON, Sept 27 (Reuters) – While the rest of the world worries about recession, China is steadily increasing its imports of physical copper. The country’s net call on refined copper from the rest of the world was up by 9.8% in the first eight months of the year. Year-to-date volumes are the strongest since 2020, when China imported a record amount of metal.

China is simultaneously lifting imports of both copper scrap and mined concentrates, suggesting the hunger for refined units is not down to a shortage of raw materials. Strong import flows defy both the broader gloom around China’s debt-laden property sector and the more specific problems at trading house Maike, which is one of China’s dominant copper import channels.

It’s clear a major restocking exercise is underway, but is there something else at work as well?


China’s net imports of refined copper were 2.31 million tonnes in the first eight months of this year, a 200,000-tonne increase on the same period of 2021.

However, that understates the scale of the buying spree that is currently taking place. Imports were running below year-earlier levels as recently as May. The pace accelerated sharply in June and has been running at an annualised 3.87 million tonnes over the last three reported months.

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