ICSG Press Release: Copper – Preliminary Data for April 2018

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The International Copper Study Group (ICSG) released preliminary data for April 2018 world copper supply and demand in its July 2018 Copper Bulletin.

The Bulletin and ICSG online statistical database provide detailed data, on a country basis, for copper mine, smelter, refined and semis production and copper refined usage, trade, stocks and prices. The bulletin is available for sale (single issues €100/€150, annual subscription €500/€750 for orders originating from/outside institutions based in ICSG member countries).

World mine production is estimated to have increased by 6.1% in the first four months of 2018, with concentrate production rising by 6% and solvent extraction-electrowinning (SX-EW) by 6.5%:

  • The increase in world mine production, of about 380,000 t copper, was mainly due to: Constrained output in the comparative period of 2017 namely in Chile and Indonesia.
  • Production in Chile, the world’s biggest copper mine producing country, increased by 15.5% mainly because production in February/March 2017 was constrained by a strike at Escondida (the world’s biggest copper mine) but also due to an improvement in Codelco’s production levels.
  • Indonesian output increased by 50% because comparative output in 2017 was negatively affected by a temporary ban on concentrate exports that started in January and ended in April. A 11.5% increase in SX-EW production in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and a 16% rise in Zambian mine output due to the restart of temporarily closed capacity.
  • Although no major supply disruptions occurred in the first four months of this year, overall growth was partially offset by lower output at some mines in Canada (-10%) and in the United States (-11%).
  • After a strong increase in the last few years due to new and expanded capacity, output in Peru (the world’s second largest copper mine producing country) has levelled off.
  • On a regional basis, mine production is estimated to have increased by around 12% in Africa, 5% in the Americas, 6.5% in Asia, 3% in Europe and 9% in Oceania.

World refined production is estimated to have increased by 1.5% in the first four months of 2018 with primary production (electrolytic and electrowinning) rising by 0.5% and secondary production (from scrap) increasing by 7%:

  • In tonnage terms, the main contributor to growth in world refined production was China due to its continued expansion of capacity.
  • Production in Chile was up by 6.8% supported by a 7.2 % increase in electrowinning (SX-EW) production mainly because comparative output in 2017 was constrained by the strike at Escondida referred to previously. In addition, primary electrolytic production increased by 6% mainly due to improved production at Codelco.
  • Production in Indonesia and Japan was also substantially higher, recovering from constrained output last year that was due to a strike and maintenances shutdown respectively.
  • Increases in electrowinning (SX-EW) output in the DRC and Zambia also contributed to world refined production growth.
  • However, overall growth was partially offset by declines in India (shutdown of Vedanta’s smelter/refinery in April), in Peru, Poland and the United States.
  • On a regional basis, refined output is estimated to have increased in Africa (10%) and Asia (2%) while remaining essentially unchanged in Europe and in the Americas.

World apparent refined usage is estimated to have increased by about 1% in the first four months of 2018:

  • China was the biggest contributor to growth with apparent usage (excluding changes in unreported stocks) increasing by around 3%, driven by a 13% increase in net refined copper imports. (as Chinese customs temporarily suspended the publication of copper products trade data since March, imports/exports for April were calculated based on reversed trade data)
  • Preliminary data indicates that world ex-China usage declined by 1.5%.
  • Among other major copper using countries, usage increased in India and the EU but declined in Japan, the United States and South Korea.

World refined copper balance for the first four months of 2018 indicates a surplus of about 60,000 t:

  • In developing its global market balance, ICSG uses an apparent demand calculation for China that does not take into account changes in unreported stocks [State Reserve Bureau (SRB), producer, consumer, merchant/trader, bonded]. To facilitate global market analysis, however, an additional line item—Refined World Balance Adjusted for Chinese Bonded Stock Changes—is included in the attached table that adjusts the world refined copper balance based on an average estimate of changes in unreported inventories provided by three consultants with expertise in China’s copper market.
  • In the first four months of 2018, the world refined copper balance adjusted for changes in Chinese bonded stocks indicated a market surplus of around 50,000 t.

Copper Prices and Stocks

Based on the average of stock estimates provided by independent consultants, China’s bonded stocks are thought to have declined by around 8,000 t in the first four months of 2018 from the year-end 2017 level. Bonded stocks increased by around 140,000 t in the same period of last year. As of the end of June, copper stocks held at the major metal exchanges (LME, COMEX, SHFE) totalled 756.742 t, an increase of 214.213 t (39%) from stocks held at the end of December 2017. Stocks were up at the LME (44%), at SHFE (75%) and COMEX (6%).The average LME cash price for June was US$ 6,954.79 /t, up 1.9% from the May average of US$ 6,821.76 /t. The 2018 high and low copper prices through the end of June were US$7,262.50 per tonne (on 8th  Jun) and US$6,500 per tonne (on 26th Mar), respectively, and the year average was US$6,916.69/t per tonne (12% above the 2017 annual average).

For further copper market related information, please visit the ICSG website.

Source: International Copper Study Group (ICSG)