SHANGHAI, Sept 7 (Reuters) - China’s copper imports eased in August from the previous month’s all-time high, customs data showed on Monday, as an arbitrage window to bring in overseas metal shut and demand from key consumption sectors slowed.
Imports of unwrought copper and copper products into China totalled 668,486 tonnes last month, the General Administration of Customs said. That was down 12.3% from a record 762,210.9 tonnes in July, but still up by 66% from August 2019.
Imports were up 38% from a year earlier in the first eight months of 2020 at 4.27 million tonnes.
“Monthly imports are lower because the arbitrage window closed, and it is traditionally a weaker demand season in Q3,” said China copper demand analyst He Tianyu at CRU Group.
“But August imports are still higher year-on-year, and last month’s base number is already pretty high. If the arbitrage window opens again, imports could increase again.”
An arbitrage between London and Shanghai copper that swelled imports of favourably priced metal in the previous two months closed in July after London prices rallied.
China’s factory activity also grew at a slower pace in August as floods across southwestern China disrupted production.
Imports of copper concentrate, or partially processed copper ore, stood at 1.59 million tonnes in August, customs said. That was down 11.4% from July and also down 12.4% from 1.815 million tonnes a year earlier.
Meanwhile, China’s exports of unwrought aluminium and aluminium products came to 395,424 tonnes in August, the highest in four months though down 11% from August 2019.
China turned net aluminium importer in July for the first time since 2009, buoyed by another rare arbitrage opportunity.
In the first eight months, China’s aluminium exports, also hit by weak demand overseas due to the coronavirus pandemic, were down 20% on the year at 3.13 million tonnes.
Reporting by Emily Chow and Tom Daly; Editing by RichardPullin and Kenneth Maxwell