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Copper on Fire: Prices Hit Fresh Highs as China Slashes Smelter Output!

Discover the latest on the soaring copper market with prices hitting fresh highs. Get insights into China's smelter cutbacks and rising stockpiles.

The copper market is buzzing with positive momentum, fueled by rising prices and production cuts in China, the world's biggest consumer of the red metal. However, a potential wrinkle in this bullish story comes in the form of rising stockpiles within China. Let's delve deeper into these developments.

Copper Prices Surge to New Highs

Good news for miners! Copper prices have broken through a key barrier, reaching $4.38 per pound ($9,656 per tonne) – the highest level since early June 2022. This translates to a healthy year-to-date gain of over 12%, indicating strong demand for the versatile metal.

China Takes Action: Smelter Cutbacks Bite

This price surge is partly driven by production cuts in China. Facing tighter-than-expected concentrate supplies and persistent overcapacity, Chinese smelters – responsible for processing half the world's mined copper – pledged to reduce output by 5-10%. Independent satellite data corroborates these pledges, revealing a significant rise in smelter inactivity within China.

The average inactivity rate jumped to 8.5% compared to a much lower 4.1% in the first quarter of 2023. Notably, March saw inactivity spike to 9%, pushing the global gauge to nearly 18%. This production cutback is expected to alleviate pressure on concentrate supplies, ultimately improving smelter profitability.

China's Strong Copper Appetite

Further bolstering the copper market is China's seemingly insatiable demand for the metal. China's first-quarter copper imports reached a robust 1.38 million tons, reflecting a healthy 6.9% year-over-year increase. This bullish trend continued in March, with copper concentrate imports surging by 15.3% compared to the same period last year.

A Note of Caution: Rising Stockpiles

While the overall picture seems bright, a potential concern emerges in the form of rising copper inventories within China. Stockpiles held by the Shanghai Futures Exchange have climbed 2.7% over the past week, reaching 300,000 tonnes. This could indicate a counter-seasonal trend, potentially dampening the price rally in the short term.

Looking Ahead

The copper market is displaying remarkable resilience, with rising prices and Chinese production cuts acting as key drivers. However, the recent increase in Chinese stockpiles warrants close monitoring. How this trend unfolds will likely influence the trajectory of copper prices in the coming months.

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