UPDATE 3-China's unwrought copper imports fall m/m in May on record-high prices

* May arrivals of unwrought copper, products -8% m/m at 445,725 T

* London copper prices hit all-time high near $10,750 last month

* Copper ore imports at 1.95 mln T; aluminium exports at 439,097 T (Adds bullets, detail on copper premiums in para 5, graphic)

June 7 (Reuters) – China’s copper imports fell 8% in May from the previous month, customs data showed on Monday, as record-high prices further eroded buying interest in the world’s top consumer of the metal.

Imports of unwrought copper and copper products were 445,725 tonnes in May, the General Administration of Customs said. That was down from 484,890 tonnes in April for a second straight month-on-month drop but up from 436,030 tonnes in May 2020.

Benchmark London copper prices rose 4.4% last month, hitting an all-time peak of $10,747.50 a tonne on May 10. Prices have hovered at uncomfortably high levels for consumers for most of this year, fuelled by a post-lockdown resurgence in demand and easing liquidity globally.

Growth in China’s manufacturing sector, a key copper consuming sector, slowed slightly in May as raw materials costs rose at their fastest pace in over a decade.

Underscoring low buying interest, the closely watched Yangshan copper premium SMM-CUYP-CN, paid on top of London prices for delivery of physical copper into China, is at its lowest since 2016 at $28 a tonne.

Copper inventories in Shanghai bonded warehouses SMM-CUR-BON meanwhile rose to 415,500 tonnes by the end of May, the most since July 2019.

Continued high prices will have an impact on future imports, said CRU copper analyst He Tianyu, adding that despite the monthly declines, overall import levels are still relatively high.

“May imports are still relatively high due to delayed logistics issues from January to April,” He said. “Overseas orders are also being transferred to China as there are still COVID-19 impacts in overseas markets.”

Imports of copper concentrate, or partially processed copper ore, in May totalled 1.95 million tonnes, up from 1.921 million tonnes in April, customs said.

Meanwhile, China’s exports of unwrought aluminium and aluminium products were 439,097 tonnes in May, it said.

That compares with 437,284.50 tonnes in April, and 382,934.50 tonnes in May 2020.

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