Copper scrap imports plunge in China

Copper scrap imports plunge in China

Modest October intake could be one more warning sign for nation’s economy.

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November 27, 2018

Figures released by the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) indicate the nation’s imports of scrap metal in October 2018 sank to a volume level not seen since 2014. Chinese buyers’ imports of red metal scrap from the United States, upon which a tariff has been placed, sank to less than 20 percent of the amount purchased in October 2017.

According to an online recap prepared by Reuters, the 330,000 metric tons of red metal scrap imported in October (the lowest monthly volume since 2014) was caused “by China’s tightening regulations on [scrap] imports.”

Chinese buyers in October brought in just 170,000 metric tons of copper-bearing scrap, with just 6,000 metric tons of that total coming from the United States. (The October 2017 U.S.-to-China figure was nearly 40,000 metric tons.)

That monthly U.S. import figure of 6,000 metric tons also is down more than 20 percent from the 26,500 metric tons shipped the prior month of September.

Smelters and scrap processors in China also imported less aluminum scrap in October, but down by about 10 percent from 100,000 metric tons in September to 90,000 in October.

In the absence of U.S. material, GACC records reportedly indicate Chinese buyers are turning more often to suppliers in Japan and Hong Kong.

In addition to trade impasse actions, the ability of China’s construction and manufacturing sectors to sustain their metal consumption activities also is coming into question.

In the steel sector, the cost of steel rebar and iron ore have both been on a downward trend in China. Should either China’s construction or manufacturing sectors experience a slowdown, it would have an impact on the amount of copper consumed and produced in China, and thus on the nation’s need for copper scrap.