Chinas refined copper imports will fall for the third straight year in 2018 as domestic production picks up and consumption slows amid weaker demand from the real estate sector, an influential research house said on Thursday.
Antaike, research arm of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association, expects top copper consumer China to import 3 million tonnes of refined copper this year, down 7.5 percent from 3.243 million tonnes in 2017, He Xiaohui, an analyst with the agency, said in an industry outlook in Beijing.
Despite the import drop, Chinas refined copper consumption will still rise this year, He said, although just 3.3 percent to 11.1 million tonnes, after growing 4.2 percent in 2017.
Domestic production is expected to increase by 4.3 percent to 8.35 million tonnes as new smelters start up. That has Antaike projecting Chinas copper concentrate imports to rise by 3.7 percent to 4.5 million tonnes of metal equivalent this year. Outside China, growth in consumption is set to accelerate, while the threat of mine strikes persists, especially in Chile and Peru as labour talks loom, He said. The potential supply loss could have a bigger impact on the refined copper market than disruptions did in the first half of 2017, when inventories were high.