TORONTO (miningweekly.com) - World demand for refined copper exceeded supply by about 50 000 t during March, the International Copper Study Group (ICSG) reported on Monday.
This followed a supply deficit of 27 000 t in February, and a surplus of 124 000 t in January.
For the first quarter of 2009, the copper market showed a surplus of about 50 000 t, compared with a production deficit of 67 000 t a year earlier, the ICSG said.
The increased deficit in March was mainly owing to continued high net Chinese imports of refined copper.
In the first quarter of 2009, world usage fell by 4% compared with the first quarter of 2008.
However, had it not been for a very high apparent usage in China, the decline would have exceeded 10%, the ICSG said.
Chinese apparent usage grew by 36%, as net imports of refined copper almost doubled to about 750 000 t, partially offsetting a decrease of 19% in the rest of the world.
Markets were particularly weak in the EU-15 countries, Japan, and the US, where usage decreased by 25%, 46%, and 27%, respectively.
These three regions currently represent around 30% of the world total copper usage.
World mine production grew by 1,6%, or 57 000 t, in the first quarter of 2009 compared with the same period of 2008, when operational problems led to reduced production.
However, owing to production constraints and intentional cuts/shutdowns, mine production remained well below available capacity, with capacity utilisation falling to around 77%, compared with an average of 87% over the past five years, the ICSG said.
World refined production decreased by 1,6% in the first three months of the year, compared with production in the first quarter of 2008.
Primary production was down by 0,3%, while secondary production (from scrap) decreased by 9%, "reflecting the global scarcity of scrap".
At the end May 2009, copper stocks held at the major metal exchanges totalled 392 689 t, an increase of 3 000 t from stocks held at the end of December 2008.