China Commodity Imports Hold Up In October

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

China’s commodity imports were again mixed in October reflecting the state of the wider economy.

But the volumes were again solid, but one commodity to watch is liquified natural gas (LNG) where import volumes are slowing sharply.

But on the other hand, China’s annual coal imports are heading for an all-time high of more than 300 million tonnes this year.

China’s crude oil imports surged 11.5% last month from a year earlier to a record high, as refineries new and old boosted demand as profit margins remained steady.

Natural gas imports, however, fell 10.6% year-on-year last month, the first fall since November 2016, according to Reuters.

China imported 45.51 million tonnes of crude last month, or 10.72 million barrels per day (BPD), according to the General Administration of Customs on Friday.

That was up from 10.04 million BPD in September.

Imports during the first 10 months of the year jumped 10.5% to 414.55 million tonnes, or 9.95 million BPD, from the first 10 months of 2018.

Total natural gas imports, including liquefied natural gas (LNG) and pipeline, last month fell to 6.52 million tonnes, down from September’s 8.21 million tonnes,

Gas imports in the January to October period reached 77.71 million tonnes, up 7.9% from the same period last year, but well down from the double-digit growth rate earlier this year and for much of 2018. That helps explain why LNG prices have fallen this year.

Iron ore imports in October fell for the first time in four months thanks to shrinking profit margins at steel mills.

Imports totalled 92.86 million tonnes last month down 6.5% from 99.36 million tonnes in September but up from 88.40 million tonnes in October 2018

Over the first ten months of the year, imports totalled 877.18 million tonnes, down just on 2% from 891.48 million tonnes in the same period of 2018.

Meanwhile, China’s coal imports in October rose from a year ago but fell 15.2% from a month earlier, as traders slowed purchases because of confusion about the government’s import policy the spread between domestic and import prices narrowed.

Imports totalled 25.69 million tonnes in October, up 11.3% from 23.08 million tonnes imported a year ago.

January to October coal imports were up 9.6% at 276.24 million tonnes compared with 251.94 million tonnes a year ago, so the new record high is well within reached and has probably already been set.

In 2018, China brought in a total of 281.23 million tonnes of coal.

Last year, China severely limited coal imports in the final two months by halting shipment clearances, curtailing imports of the fuel by 54% in December.

At the moment though China’s imports are heading for a new high in 2019 of well over 320 million tonnes, unless there is a sharp cut in permitted shipments in November and December.

Imports of unwrought copper and copper concentrate fell in October from September.

In fact, imports of unwrought metal fell to their lowest since April, as prices as prices rose sharply in the month and totalled 330,000 tonnes, up from 290,000 tonnes a year ago, but down from 430,000 tonnes in September.

Imports for the first 10 months of the year were 3.76 million tonnes, down 7.8% from the same period in 2018.

Imports of copper concentrate totalled 1.37 million tonnes in October, the lowest since May. Imports were down from 1.47 million tonnes in September, but up from 1.36 million a year ago.

Imports of soybeans, the contentious (with the US) agricultural product, fell 10.6% in October from the same month in 2018, data from China’s customs administration showed.

The continuing contraction in the size of China’s pig herd because of African swine fever has reduced demand for soymeal.

China brought 6.18 million tonnes last month, down from last year’s 6.92 million tonnes.

That was also down 24.6% from September and the lowest amount since March.

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.

View more articles by Glenn Dyer →