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BEIJING: China’s April copper cathode output fell on both a monthly and annual basis, state-backed research house Antaike said on Tuesday, as maintenance and the COVID-19 outbreak curbed smelters from producing more metal.

Copper output at 22 smelters surveyed by Antaike, accounting for 83% of the country’s total capacity, stood at 757,400 tonnes, down 2.03% from a revised March production of 773,100 tonnes and fell 7.23% year-on-year.

“Maintenance at domestic companies such as Tongling Nonferrous, Daye Nonferrous were relatively intensive in April, said the research house, adding that the pandemic had curbed smelters’ utilisation rates while output in a Shandong firm had not recovered yet. In the first four months, the surveyed firms produced 3.06 million tonnes of copper cathode, down nearly 1% from the same period in 2021, according to Antaike.

The recent resurgence of pandemic infections in China has undermined both supply and demand sides in the copper sector, with some key production areas being affected and transportation and sales temporarily suspended, Antaike said in a separate statement on Monday. It expected affected production to gradually recover, with May output at around 775,000 tonnes. However, some producers could postpone their maintenance plans due to labour shortages, which are anticipated to limit the increase in May-June, according to Monday’s statement. Copper prices, meanwhile, will be supported by domestic economic stimulus and relatively high inflation in the United States, Antaike said, seeing LME copper prices fluctuating between $9,100 and $9,900 per tonne and Shanghai copper futures at 68,000-75,000 yuan ($10,124.02-11,166.20) a tonne in the short term. Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange stood at $9,318 a tonne at 0933 GMT. Shanghai copper closed at $71,720 yuan.

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