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Coronavirus impact curbs China, Europe copper smelting - satellite index

Kitco News

LONDON, March 12 (Reuters) - Copper smelting declined during February in China and Europe as the coronavirus outbreak worsened, according to an index based on satellite surveillance of copper plants.

In China, some smelters appeared to have shut down completely as the government tightened restrictions to halt the spread of the virus, a statement released on Thursday said. Earth-i, which specialises in geospatial data, launched its SAVANT service late last year, tracking 100 smelters accounting for between 80% and 90% of global production. It sells data to fund managers, traders and miners, and also publishes a free monthly index of global copper smelter activity.

Despite the declines, the average of global copper smelting for the whole of February rose modestly because of greater activity early in month. The global index rose to an average of 91.5 in February, up 1.4 points from the previous month. The index represents the percentage of the world's smelters that are active.

"The index readings suggest that increasing numbers of Chinese smelters have been moving from reduced production to enforced shut-down as the COVID-19 situation is sustained," Guy Wolf, global head of analytics at broker Marex Spectron, which helped develop SAVANT, said.

"Despite that, there is no evidence to suggest production has completely collapsed and it should be able to ramp up quickly when required." The smelters that shut down in China, the world top refined copper producer, were mostly smaller operations, the statement said.

Strong European smelter production in January and early February had been supporting the global index, but faltered later in February, Wolf said. "The main feature of the data this month was the decline in European activity in the second half of the month."

(Reporting by Eric Onstad)

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