Japan Copper, Phosphor Bronze Strip Production to Keep Weak in 1Q F2012

Japanese industry expects domestic demand of rolled copper products in April-June or first quarter of fiscal 2012 started April would be less than 2011 peak level. The demand has maintained steady for automotive connector materials while the demand continues weak for electronic components including lead frames since 3Q F2011. The demand apparently hit bottom for electronic components.

Japanese copper strip production decreased to below 17,000 tonnes per month in December and January while the production improved to 18,300 tonnes in February. Many makers and dealers feel the demand hit bottom. One nonferrous metal trader said semiconductor and appliance makers recently recovered their operations after the temporary suspension or slowdown due to Thai flood disaster. Another source of Japanese flat rolled copper maker told inventory adjustment has progressed at the users. Despite of these positive signs, the monthly production is unexpected to reach 20,000 tonnes during April-June.

Japanese brass strip production keeps year-to-year plus thanks to the steady demand for automotive connectors since 2Q F2011. Brass strip makers seem unable to finish order backlogs despite of their full or high operations. One copper alloy product dealer in Tokyo said the new orders presently seem slowing down. The domestic production is likely to maintain around 9,000 tonnes per month for April-June, almost the same volume of a year earlier.

Demand recovery is especially weak for phosphor bronze sheet and strip. The domestic production hit the lowest volume at 2,574 tonnes in February since 2,338 tonnes in May 2009. The shipment is stagnant for connectors applied to light electrical appliances. One copper alloy products dealer in Tokyo indicated the demand condition is unforeseeable for April-June when appliance and telecom device makers cannot design out their quarterly output plans. The monthly production is unlikely to exceed 3,500 tonnes, said the dealer.

Copper plates are used for heavy electric machines, power distribution inside buildings and industrial machine parts. The domestic demand is low since reconstructions are delayed in the disaster areas of the Japan Earthquake while Japanese power companies are decreasing facility renewals due to energy cost expansion and atomic power plant suspension. A copper plate dealer in Tokyo said the current demand is 20-30% lower than two years before. The demand for reconstructions is expected to improve in or after 3Q F2012.