REUTERS - China’s imports of crude oil, copper, iron ore and soybeans rose in May on a month earlier, although coal imports fell, customs data showed on Thursday.
Copper: China imported 390,000 tonnes, versus 300,000 tonnes in April
Crude oil: China imported 37.20 million tonnes, versus 34.39 million tonnes in April
Iron ore: China imported 91.52 million tonnes, versus 82.23 million tonnes in April
Soybeans: China imported 9.59 million tonnes, versus 8.02 million tonnes in April
Coal: China imported 22.19 million tonnes, versus 24.78 million tonnes in April
Commentary on coal
”A diminishing price advantage for foreign coal is the main reason dampening demand from traders and power companies for imported coals. The narrowing price difference was mainly caused by a significant price drop of domestic coal since March. Seaborne coal shipments from Australia arriving at Qinghuangdao port are now at around 616 yuan per tonne, while coal produced domestically shipped from Qinghuangdao port to Guangdong province is at 579 yuan per tonne.
“In addition, the hefty inventories in ports and power firms suggest a weakening in broad demand.”
Commentary on oil
“China’s May crude imports were mainly driven by purchases from some Shandong based independent refineries that had sent China’s crude imports to a record high in March. In the first five months, we are seeing a steady pace of buying from these ‘teapot’ refineries which reported good profit margins. Some of them also have almost used up their crude import quotas for the whole year now. So there are concerns that their pace of buying could slow down in the following months.”
Commentary on copper
“The copper imports rebound in May is more than markets expectations, especially in the offseason for copper, pointing to the markets had overestimated the slowdown in China’s economic growth and the sluggish domestic demand.”
”Refined copper imports tend to increase when there is limited availability of concentrate, so the decrease in concentrate supply could be the result of a lingering effect from the strike in Chile and supply disruptions at Freeport in Indonesia.
“Hopefully all the supply issues will have been resolved by the June data and concentrate supply could go back to normal which may also limit imports of refined copper.”
Commentary on soybeans
“Supplies from presale orders are being shipped (to China) gradually. Domestic soymeal prices plunged earlier as soybeans imports arrived in a concentrated period. Pressure from the supplies reducing will decrease later and imports are also expected to drop.”
Commentary on iron ore
”I think the increase in May confirms that there were potential delays in customs shipments that led to the drop in April imports.
“Domestic demand is firm. Profitability at steel mills was good in May especially for rebar producers. I don’t think there will be a slump in iron ore imports going forward because while inventory at ports is very high, inventory at mills is relatively low.”
China is the world’s biggest net crude oil consumer and topbuyer of copper, coal, iron ore and soy.
Reporting by Asia Commodities and Energy team; Editing by Richard Pullin