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The price of copper dropped strongly on Thursday in London, after weaker-than-expected trading data out of China.
Chinese exports fell 10.0% year-on-year in September, after contracting 2.8% in August, UK-based research firm Capital Economics said in a note. Imports dropped 1.9% in September, after rising 1.5% the previous month.
UK lender Barclays said copper ores and concentrates imports were 1.39Mt in September, down 4.2% compared with August but up 14.6% compared with September last year. The lender said September's was the second-lowest year-on-year growth rate this year.
"To some extent, the softness in China's copper metal imports reflect displacement by rising domestic refined copper production which is up almost 10% in the year to date," said Barclays, adding that weak copper imports "may be a warning sign that the effects of government stimulus are starting to slow a little."
"Overall, today's data are a reminder that China faces a challenging external environment which is likely to keep export growth subdue in coming quarters," Capital Economics said.
"Unless there is evidence of a renewed slowdown in the broader economic data we still see some upside to import growth in the coming months," it added, noting that "at the very least, the sharp drop in global commodity prices at the end of last year should provide a more flattering base for comparison."
Aluminum closed 0.2% lower on Thursday at US$1,681/t, while lead was down 1.4% to US$2,013/t and nickel fell 1.5% to US$10,415/t. Zinc was 1.3% lower at US$2,230/t, tin was down 1.5% at US$19,700/t, and molybdenum was steady at US$15,500/t.