According to the largest metal-trading company in China, Minmetals Nonferrous Metals Co., Chinese imports of copper in 2010 could be half of what they were in 2009, setting up a potential plunge in copper prices if that assessment is true.
The Chinese are winding down the spending on infrastructure from the stimulus money, and also tightening up their credit somewhat to cool down growth.
Estimates are refined copper imports may stand at about 1.5 million metric tons for 2010, a 53 percent decrease for 2009. That is more the norm on real demand, as it's close to the 2008 numbers of 1.46 million tons of refined copper imported.
In the Chinese markets copper is mostly in a contango where buyers can get it cheaper right now than they can in the intermediate term.
Another reason for cutting back on copper imports by China is they stockpiled far more than they needed last year, and numerous empty buildings built from the artificial stimulus are largely empty and standing there with no immediate use, making more building in that sector largely irrelevant and not fueled by market forces.