China's consumption of copper is expected to stay robust next year as Chinese feel more confident about the economy, but demand may not filter through to imports in the next six months because of large local stockpiles.
Many traders, analysts, producers and end-users at a two-day copper conference on the weekend in Wuhan, a city in Hubei province, believe domestic copper demand will climb next year because output of semi-finished copper products will rise to meet the needs of the power, building and home appliance sectors.
"People's confidence is coming back," said Zhang Xuefeng, general manager of the material department of copper end-user Ningbo Kangqiang Electronics, which is finishing a new facility to boost production by 20-30 percent. "The economic recovery is getting faster. Investment projects are picking up."
Zhang said the semi-conductor sector was recovering rapidly. The optimism among copper buyers was shared by some suppliers.
A sales manager for smelter Daye Non-Ferrous Metals said there was good demand from the power sector and copper tubes producers.
In 2010, China's real refined copper consumption is expected to rise 8 percent on the year to 5.83 million tons, supported by the power and building sectors, research group Antaike predicted. This year's consumption is estimated at 5.4 million tons, up 10.2 percent.
Senior Antaike analyst Wang Jun told the conference that production of semi-finished copper products may rise, with annual capacity of wire rods reaching 4 million tons in 2010 from 3.3 million tons this year and of plates and strips hitting 2 million tons from 1.8 million tons.
China's imports of refined copper surged 165 percent on the year to 2.58 million tons in the first nine months.