May 8, 2019 / 4:36 AM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-China's April copper imports rise vs March, demand builds momentum for Q2 peak

* Copper imports up 3.6 pct on March, but down on year

* Copper concentrates fall 6 pct on prior month

* Aluminium exports jump almost 16 pct on year (Recasts, adds detail)

HONG KONG/BEIJING, May 8 (Reuters) - China’s unwrought copper imports rose 3.6 percent in April from the previous month, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs on Wednesday, as demand gathered momentum at the start of the peak-consumption second quarter.

Imports of unwrought copper, including anode, refined and semi-finished copper products into China, the world’s top consumer of the metal, came in at 405,000 tonnes last month. That compares with 391,000 tonnes in March, although it was down 8.4 percent from 442,000 tonnes in April 2018.

Copper is widely used in construction and manufacturing, and demand for the metal is considered a bellwether for the health of an economy. The second quarter typically sees China’s metal use rise after the end of winter anti-pollution restrictions on industry, and as construction sites ramp up work.

However, factory activity in China expanded at a much slower pace than expected in April, pointing to a sluggish manufacturing sector in the world’s second-largest economy, locked in a trade war with the United States.

Furthermore, the arbitrage between London and Shanghai copper prices remained closed in April, denying traders the opportunity to profit from shipping physical metal to China.

Arrivals of copper concentrate, or partially processed copper ore, were at 1.66 million tonnes in April, according to the customs data.

That was down 6.2 percent from 1.77 million tonnes in March and up 7.1 percent from 1.55 million tonnes in April 2018.

China’s aluminium exports, meanwhile, fell 8.8 percent from 546,000 tonnes in March to 498,000 tonnes in April. That was up 15.8 percent however, from 430,000 tonnes in April 2018.

Besides a blip in February, Chinese aluminium exports have been riding high since exports of semi-finished aluminium products were given a higher value-added tax (VAT) rebate from November.

The VAT rate was previously 16 percent but was lowered to 13 percent from April as part of moves by China to ease pressure on its economy.

Reporting by Tom Daly in HONG KONG and Dominique Patton in BEIJING; Editing by Joseph Radford and Kenneth Maxwell

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