China's Demand For Commodities Continues Into 2018
China’s imports of commodities in February were impacted by the pull forward of demand into January ahead of the week long Lunar New Year break in the middle of the month.
Copper, coal, soybeans, oil and iron ore were all impacted by the timing of the holiday, but combined figures for January and February were mostly ahead of the first two months of 2017.
Its good news for commodity exporters like Australia - the Chinese economy continues to tick along at a pace similar to 2017 when it grew 6.9% with demand surprising on the upside for most commodities.
China’s iron ore imports in February fell 16% to 84.27 million tonnes from the previous month near record 100.3 million tones, the country’s customs department said on Thursday.
A better guide is the figure for January and February which show imports for the first two months rose 5.4% to 184.74 million tonnes from a year ago. February imports rose 0.9% from the same month last year.
The timing of the week-long Lunar New Year holiday - it fell in mid February as opposed at the end of January in 2017, meaning January imports of ore and other commodities were pulled forward from February.
Figures yesterday from the Pilbara Ports Authority showed iron ore exports tonChina in January and February rose 1.9% to a total of 65.94 million tonnes from 64.67 million tonnes. Exports in February were 31.24 million tonnes, down from January’s 34.64 million tonnes, but up 1.1 million tonnes from February 2017.
China’s iron ore imports in 2017 rose 5% to a record 1.075 billion tonnes, topping 1 billion tonnes for a second straight year.
Customs figures showed also that Chinese steel exports rose 4% to 4.85 million tonnes in February from January, but fell 16% from a year ago
China exported 4.65 million tonnes of steel products in January, the lowest since February 2013. Year-to-date exports slid 27%t at 9.5 million tonnes.
China’s coal imports fell in February from January’s four-year high, the customs data showed on Thursday.
Data from the General Administration of Customs showed coal imports fell dropped to 20.9 million tonnes last month from 27.8 million tonnes in January.
For the first two months of the year Chinese imports totalled of 48.71 million tonnes, up 14% from the first two months of last year.
Meanwhile China’s oil imports fell in February fell sharply from January’s record as independent refineries cut their purchases, while natural gas imports held at high levels because of the bitter winter.
China imported 32.26 million tonnes of crude oil in February, or 8.41 million barrels a day (bpf), down 12% from January’s record high of 9.57 million bpd, according to data from the General Administration of Customs/
For the first two months of the year, China imported 72.9 million tonnes of crude oil, or 9.02 million bpd, against an average of 8.4 million barrels bpd in 2017.
Natural gas imports - both piped and LNG totalled 6.94 million tonnes in February against January’s 7.7 million tonnes (but was steady on a daily basis). January’s figure was the second highest monthly figure on record.
China also imported 5.4 million tonnes of soybeans in February, the lowest monthly total since October 2016
China’s imports of copper fell 20% in February from a month earlier, dropping for a third straight month as a week-long shutdown for Lunar New Year.
Imports of anode, refined, alloy and semi-finished copper products totalled 352,000 tonnes last month, down from January’s 440,000 tonnes when China imported more unwrought copper instead of types of copper scrap that are now banned, and up from 340,000 tonnes in February 2017.
China’s February copper concentrate imports fell to 1.45 million tonnes, down from 1.62 million tonnes in January and the 1.43 million tonnes in February 2017.
Meanwhile, China’s exports of unwrought aluminium and products rose 26% in the first two months of this year to 817,000 tonnes, according to the General Administration of Customs.
February’s exports fell 15% from January, because of the timing of the Lunar New Year holiday.
Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.
At the AFR he was a finance writer, Finance Editor, News Editor and Chief of Staff. At the Nine Network he was supervising producer of Business Sunday for more than 16 years. He has also written for other online and analogue print publications here and overseas.