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Antaike ups China 2020 copper import forecast, sees 400,000 T of net primary aluminium inflows

* Research house projects 2020 refined copper imports at 3.5 mln T

* Estimates 1.7% fall in China’s aluminium consumption this year

BEIJING, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Research group Antaike made a nearly 13% upward revision to its forecast for China’s refined copper imports in 2020, as tight raw material supply constrains domestic output, and said it sees net primary aluminium inflows totalling 400,000 tonnes.

Antaike, the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association’s research arm, said on Thursday it saw refined copper imports totalling 3.5 million tonnes this year, analyst He Xiaohui told an industry conference in Beijing.

That is down from 3.55 million tonnes in 2019 but 12.9% higher than the 3.1 million tonnes Antaike had forecast in February. It coincides with a downward revision in expected refined copper production from 9.3 million tonnes to 9.1 million tonnes.

“The production volume adjustment is mainly due to raw materials - copper concentrate and copper scrap are relatively tight for various reasons,” He said.

A strong recovery in demand in top consumer China after the initial novel coronavirus outbreak helped propel copper prices to a two-year high last month.

While China’s copper smelters cut operating rates as the coronavirus outbreak emerged early in the year, it was not long before overseas mines were affected, reducing ore supply.

A crackdown on scrap metal also helped lift China’s unwrought copper imports to a record high in June.

Projected refined copper consumption is at 11.56 million tonnes, leaving the Chinese market in a 740,000-tonne surplus this year, according to Antaike estimates.

Separately, Antaike sees China’s aluminium consumption falling 1.7% to 36 million tonnes in 2020, analyst Wang Hongfei said, versus a previous estimate of 36.6 million tonnes.

China is set to be a net importer of primary aluminium this year to the tune of 400,000 tonnes, she added, versus net exports of 1,000 tonnes in 2019.

Chinese aluminium exports are mostly semi-finished products, with primary metal exports taxed at 15%.

Imports hit an 11-year high in June, including more than 120,000 tonnes of primary aluminium, as a rare price arbitrage opened. (Reporting by Tom Daly and Min Zhang Editing by David Holmes, Robert Birsel)

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