June 7, 2018 / 5:54 PM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 1-Chile copper export revenue at 4-yr high but trade surplus shrinks

 (Adds lithium exports and background)
    SANTIAGO, June 7 (Reuters) - Chilean copper export revenue
hit its highest level in four years as crunch wage negotiations
with workers at the country's biggest mine sent prices to a 2018
high, central bank data showed on Thursday.
    Even so, the world's leading copper producer's trade surplus
 fell by more than 30 percent to $679 million in May
from $983 million in April. 
    Analysts attributed the drop to firmer import revenue due to
high fuel prices and rebounding investment given the new
business-friendly government, while export revenues increased at
a lower rate.  
    Export revenue from copper sales jumped 22 percent
year-on-year in May and 34 percent in five months, to $3.4
billion boosted by a continued high price and a low basis for
comparison. 
    Copper prices rose to a 2018 high on the London Metal
Exchange on Thursday, gaining ground for a sixth session
on concerns over disruption at the Escondida mine in Chile.
 Three-month copper hit $7,287 a tonne, and is up
6.3 percent so far this month.
    Last week workers at the BHP-owned mine
kicked off the latest round of labor negotiations with a
contract proposal that includes a bonus of about $34,000 per
worker.
    The closely-watched talks come little more than one year
after failure to reach a wage agreement led to a 44-day strike
at the world's biggest deposit, jolting the global copper
market.
    The central bank said revenue from exports of the country's
other top metal, lithium carbonate, grew 32 percent between
January and May, buoyed by an upturn in global prices of the key
component in electric car batteries.
    Exports of the mineral, lead by local firm SQM
and North America's Albemarle Corp, topped $387 million 
in the first five months of 2018. 
     
                          May 2018    April 2018  May 2017
 Trade balance            $679 mln    $983 mln    $1.015 bln
 Exports (billions of     $6.683      $6.353      $5.817
 dollars)                                         
 Imports (billions of     $6.004      $5.370      $4.803
 dollars)                                         
 Copper export revenue    $3.357      $3.002      $2.747
 (billions of dollars)                            
 


 (Reporting By Dave Sherwood and Antonio de la Jara; writing by
Aislinn Laing
Editing by Marguerita Choy)
  
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