BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s unwrought copper imports rose 9.1% in December from the previous month to their highest since March 2016, customs data showed on Tuesday, as improving factory activity and dwindling scrap metal supply lifted demand.
Imports of unwrought copper, including anode, refined and semi-finished copper products, stood at 527,000 tonnes last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.
That compared with 483,000 tonnes in November, itself a 13-month high, and was up 22.8% from December last year.
Full-year imports for 2019 came in at 4.98 million tonnes, down 6% from a record high 5.3 million tonnes in 2018.
Manufacturing activity in China, the world’s biggest copper consumer, expanded in December as signs of progress in trade talks with the United States boosted factories’ output and order books.
Furthermore, quotas to import scrap copper dried up toward the end of 2019, increasing the need to bring in other forms of the metal, although China’s own refined copper production hit a record high in November.
Imports of copper ores and concentrate, the raw material processed by smelters into refined metal, came in at 1.928 million tonnes last month, down 10.6% from a record 2.157 million tonnes in November but up 31.8% from December 2018.
Concentrate imports for the full-year rose 11.6% year-on-year to 21.99 million tonnes, easily beating the previous record of 19.72 million tonnes in 2018 as rapid smelter expansion boosted demand for ore.
Meanwhile, exports of unwrought aluminum stood at 478,000 tonnes in December. That was up 5.8% from the previous month to the highest level since July but down 9.3% from December 2018.
Full-year exports came in at 5.73 million tonnes, down 1.2% from the yearly record of 5.795 million tonnes set in 2018.
Reporting by Tom Daly; editing by Richard Pullin