By Polly Yam
HONG KONG, May 8 (Reuters) - China's copper arrivals fell 7.4 percent in April from a month ago to hit a 22-month low, hit by port strikes in Chile and delays to shipments after the closure of India's top smelter.
London Metal Exchange copper inched down after the data from the world's top consumer of the metal. By 0301 GMT, the price stood at $7,275 per tonne versus $7,296 traded at 0117 GMT.
China's arrivals of anode, refined copper, alloy and semi-finished copper products reached 295,799 tonnes in April, the lowest since June 2011, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Wednesday.
The fall in April arrivals marks a reversal of a 7.2 percent gain in March and reflects the fact that plentiful stocks in China have covered demand.
Importers and end-users stepped up purchases of refined copper in April because of improved price differentials between the LME and Shanghai. But the purchases were mostly of metal in bonded warehouses in Shanghai.
'Copper imports fell in April because domestic production of refined copper remained strong, and end-users have used stocks already in China, reducing the need for imports,' said Yang Xiaoguang, analyst at Jinrui Futures.
Port strikes in Chile delayed term shipments of refined coper, the most popular type in the international and Chinese markets. Shipments due to arrive in China in April are now expected to arrive in May and early June, traders said.
The closure of India's biggest smelter also cut shipments to China last month. Sterlite Industries shut its smelter on March 30.
Chinese importers of refined copper had rushed to buy the metal from bonded warehouses in Shanghai and the international market following a fall of nearly 6 percent in London Metal Exchange prices in mid-April, pushing spot premiums to 16-month highs.
Premiums paid by buyers rose to about $115 to $135 a tonne over the cash LME copper prices in April, from $65 to $85 in the beginning of March and the highest since late 2011.
Consumption of refined copper by fabricators which buy the metal to make semi-finished or finished products, such as rods and tubes, have increased in the past few weeks, which could boost the needs for imports in May.
'We expect imports to rise gradually from May, as domestic demand rises,' Jinrui's Yang said. 'Our understanding is that many fabricators have resumed normal production in the past few weeks and the government has brought forward investments in the power sector, from July-August in previous years.'
(Editing by Clarence Fernandez) Keywords: CHINA TRADE/COPPER
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