China Commodity Imports Soften Beyond Coal, Iron Ore

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

While China’s iron ore and coal imports rose in May, shipments of other key commodities weakened despite world prices for all commodities (bar iron ore) falling towards the end of May.

Oil, gas, copper, soybeans imports all dipped last month from April and May 2018.

Oil imported fell 8% last month, despite a slide in prices late in the month.

The fall in May was from the record peak in April, according to figures from the country’s Customs Administration.

Analysts blamed a fall in imports from Iran because of tightening US sanctions on Iranian oil exports and the closure of several major refineries for scheduled maintenance.

China’s crude imports dropped to 40.23 million tonnes in May from 43.73 million tonnes in April.

Reuters said that equates to 9.47 million barrels per day (bpd), down 11% from April,

China’s crude imports in the first five months of 2019 jumped 7.6% to a record of 205 million tonnes.

China’s gas imports, including liquefied natural gas (LNG) and pipeline imports (from Russia), continued to ease ahead of summer.

Imports were at 7.56 million tonnes in May, up 3.6% from May last year but down slightly from 7.65 million tonnes in April. China’s January-May gas imports edged up to 39.43 million tonnes.

The key indicator is copper and there the news wasn’t confidence building. Despite weakening prices, Chinese imports of unwrought copper fell 9.9% from the previous month to 365,000 tonnes in May.

May imports were down from 405,000 tonnes in April and off a substantial 22% from the 470,000 tonnes in May 2018.

Imports of unwrought copper for the first five months of the year came to 1.95 million tonnes.

China’s soybean purchases dropped 24% in May from a year earlier after the spread of swine fever hurt demand for the animal feed ingredient, and China halted purchases of American beans.

Data from the country’s Customs Administration showed soybean imports totalled 7.36 million tonnes of soybeans last month, the lowest for May since 2015. Bean imports in the first five months of 2019 dropped 12.2% year-on-year to 31.75 million tonnes.

Glenn Dyer

About Glenn Dyer

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.

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