China may be about to shock the global copper market by unleashing some of its stockpiles of the metal, which are near record highs, onto the global market.
Four traders of copper, including two from state-owned Chinese smelters, said they expect China to raise its copper exports - which are usually tiny - in the next few months. China's refined copper exports averaged less than 10,000 tonnes a month in the first two months of 2016, and around 17,000 a month in 2015.
If higher exports materialize, they will be a major jolt to producers and investors in the metal across the world - in particular because it would come during what is traditionally the strongest period of demand for copper from China, the world's largest consumer of the metal.
It will also be a further sign that the Chinese economy is still struggling against headwinds. Some sectors that buy copper - such as construction and manufacturing - have been hit especially hard in the past couple of years.
Traders and analysts in China say slowing building construction and electronics manufacturing has stifled demand for refined copper from the nation's massive smelting sector at a time when the country is already swimming in the metal.