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Analyzing China’s Copper Import Data


Jul. 16 2018, Published 1:24 p.m. ET

China’s June copper imports

China is the world’s largest copper importer. Copper mining is concentrated in Latin America. Companies including BHP Billiton (BHP), Antofagasta (ANTO), and Southern Copper (SCCO) operate copper mines in the region. Chinese copper imports are seen as an indicator of the country’s copper demand. In this part, we’ll discuss China’s June copper imports data and the implications for copper miners like Freeport-McMoRan (FCX).

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Unwrought copper imports

China imported 448,000 metric tons of unwrought copper in June—compared to 390,000 metric tons in June 2017. However, copper imports fell on a monthly basis. In May, China’s unwrought copper imports stood at 470,000 metric tons. In the first six months of 2018, China’s unwrought copper imports rose 16.2%—compared to the same period in 2017.

Copper concentrates

China also imports copper ore and concentrates that are processed more in the country. Last month, China imported 1.76 million metric tons of copper concentrates, which represents a yearly rise of almost 25%. In absolute terms, China’s June copper concentrate imports are the highest since November 2017 and the second-highest on record.

On the surface, China’s June copper import, especially copper concentrate imports, data look encouraging. However, there are a few things that we need to consider before getting overly bullish on China’s copper appetite (RIO).

Next, we’ll provide a detailed analysis of China’s June copper imports data.


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