Imports of copper, iron ore and coal rose in March from a month from February, while oil imports were steady, according to data released on Friday by China’s General Administration of Customs.
China’s iron ore imports rose in March after hitting a 10-month-low in February caused by the late timing of the week-long Lunar New Year holiday and as steel mills boosted stockpiles after the winter heating season (and restrictions on output) ended.
Steel product prices remained high and ignored rising prices in the wake of the January 25 mine dam disaster in Brazil that cut shipments from that country and continues to do so.
Imports totalled 86.42 million tonnes in March, according to data from the General Administration of Customs.
That was up from 83.08 million tonnes in February and higher than the 85.79 million tonnes in March last year.
The Customs office said that for the first quarter of 2019, China’s imports of iron ore totalled 261 million tonnes of iron ore, down 3.5% from 270.4 million tonnes in the same period of 2018.
The end of the winter heating season restrictions and the problems in Brazil saw average stocks of imported iron ore at most medium and large-steel firms in China rise to 30.4 days of use by end-March, from around 28.5 days in February.
Iron ore prices rose 3.8% to $US96.47 a tonne and are up from just over $US86 a tonne over the past fortnight.
China’s imports copper concentrate were down in March, but imports of unwrought copper jumped by more than 25% from February and the year before.
Concentrates fell 8% in March from the month before when imports rose ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays.
Imports of copper concentrate, or partially processed copper ore, totalled 1.77 million tonnes last month, up 10.6% from March 2018.
The March trade data showed China imported 391,000 tonnes of unwrought copper last month, up a strong 25.7% from 311,000 tonnes in February and 26.5% above March 2018.
China’s March coal imports fell 12.1% from a year ago to 23.48 million tonnes but were up from the very low 17.64 million tonnes in February. Reuters said that traders reported lengthy customs checks at ports across the country.
For the first three months of 2018, coal supplies were at 74.63 million tonnes, down 1.8% from a year ago.
“Higher March imports were driven by more supplies from Mongolia, with shipment increasing 50 percent in March from February. The curbs on Australian supplies have led to a fell in coking coal imports. But tight supplies will continue to support prices,” Reuters reported.
China’s natural gas imports fell to their lowest in a year in March at 6.91 million tonnes. China’s crude oil imports in March totalled 39.17 million tonnes or around 9.22 million barrels a day.
For the March quarter imports rose a solid 8.2% to 121 million tonnes. First quarter natural gas imports (pipeline and LNG) were up a very strong 17.8% at 24.27 million tonnes.
China’s March quarter soybean imports fell 14.4% to 16.75 mln tonnes and March soybean imports at 4.91 million tonnes.