April 13 (Reuters) - China's imports of oil, copper, iron ore, coal and soybeans in March surge on a month earlier, customs data showed on Thursday.
Copper: China imported 430,000 tonnes, versus 340,000 tonnes in February
Crude oil: China imported 38.95 million tonnes, versus 31.78 million tonnes in February
Iron ore: China imported 95.56 million tonnes, versus 83.49 million tonnes in February
Soybeans: China imported 6.33 million tonnes, versus 5.54 million tonnes in February
Coal: China imported 22.09 million tonnes, versus 17.68 million tonnes in February
Preliminary table of commodity trade data
Commentary on copper:
“We have been seeing exchange inventories going down, so we are not surprised about the March import recovery. For fabricators, perhaps they are looking at the short supply of copper concentrate, and choosing to import more metal now. For sure, this trend will extend into April but for May we will need to wait and see.”
Commentary on crude oil:
"The 9.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude imports is definitely a shocking number. That means China built close to 1.7 million bpd of crude inventory in March, way off the chart from any perspectives! Particularly at a time when storage capacity addition is light. This level of imports are considered unsustainable in the coming months. We're expecting a significant slowdown to close to 8 million bpd as refinery maintenance picks up, as well as the tightening room for stock building."
Commentary on Soybeans:
"The figures are basically in line with the market expectation. Buyers bought a lot of soybeans from Brazil maybe out of concern about Sino-U.S. trade relations. And logistics were quite smooth and shipping was fast. On the domestic demand side, soybean crushers signed many presale contracts around spring festival time in January and February, when there was mismatch of supply and demand. We expect soy imports for the coming months to be even higher, reaching over 8 million tonnes in April, May and June. Pressure on supplies will start kicking in around April."
Commentary on coal:
"The year on year increase in monthly coal imports is quite high and a bit unexpectedly. Robust imports reflected both strong demand from the power plants in the first three months and deep discount of imported coal to domestic coal. Demand for imported coal remain strong in April, but due to disruption to transportation in Australian, shipment could be lower compared with March."
For details, see the official Customs website (www.customs.gov.cn)
China is the world's biggest net crude oil consumer and top buyer of copper, coal, iron ore and soy. (Reporting by Asia Commodities and Energy team; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)