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China copper, iron ore, soybeans imports rise in May on year

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China’s imports of copper, iron ore and soybeans rose in May from a year ago, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Monday, as the world’s second-biggest economy continued to climb out of last year’s COVID-19 trough.

Imports of crude oil, though, registered a big drop as spring overhauls at refineries cut demand for feedstock.

China’s overall imports rose by 51.1% in May from a year earlier, the fastest pace in a decade.

Below are comments from analysts on the commodities data.

KEY POINTS:

*Crude oil: May imports fell 14.6% from a year earlier to 40.97 million tonnes

*Iron ore: May imports rose 3.2% from a year to 89.79 million tonnes

*Copper: May imports rose 2.2% from a year earlier to 445,725 tonnes

*Soybeans: May imports rose 2.5% from a year earlier to 9.61 million tonnes

*Meat: May imports fell 3.3% from a year earlier to 789,000 tonnes

Preliminary table of commodity trade data

Comment on copper

HE TIANYU, ANALYST, CRU:

“May imports are still relatively high due to delayed logistics issues from January to April. Overseas orders are also being transferred to China as there are still Covid-19 impacts in overseas markets.”

Comment on iron ore

WANG YINGWU, ANALYST, HUATAI FUTURES

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“The drop in May iron ore imports from the previous month was due to seasonal lower shipments from major miners.

Recovering demand in other markets is also claiming some iron ore exports, Wang also said.

“We can see the proportion of iron ore exports to China from Australia and Brazil had already fallen and is expected to continue to decline in coming months.”

Comment on soybeans

WANG XIAOYANG, ANALYST, SINOLINK FUTURES:

“The figures were within market expectations. Imports from May-July are usually quite large each year. There were also some delayed cargoes (from previous months).”

Comment on crude oil

MUKESH SAHDEV, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, RYSTAD ENERGY:

“There certainly seems to be a drop in China imports in range of 1 to 2 mbd (million barrels a day) from start of the year to recent Apr/May months. Based on loading data, I expect June imports to come lower than May in range of 500 kbd (thousand barrels a day) or so.

“In Q3 we do expect refinery runs to be higher by 500 kbd or so, so directionally this calls for higher imports. We may touch the imports in 11 to 12 mbd range.”

Sahdev also noted that China’s new tax policy will likely lead to higher crude oil imports:

“The new tax policy is certainly directed towards mitigating the excess fuel supply in the country that was happening as refiners were importing LCO/mixed aromatics/bitumen blends bypassing tax laws. Plugging the tax holes is supportive of the refinery runs and thus should lead to higher imports call.

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“How much impact is hard to quantify at this moment. These loop holes will adversely affect the refineries in APAC like Korean refineries exporting LCO to China.

“U.S. refiners used to export mixed aromatics for gasoline pool – so that could be affected. Given gasoline demand is expected to peak in U.S. summer, the mixed aromatics would have reduced in any case. So, in my view LCO is likely to be the main issue.

“In terms of China demand, we do not expect a significant shift and liquids demand will be in range of 13.5 to 13.6 mbd. China demand seems to be steady.”

LINKS: For details, see the official Customs website (www.customs.gov.cn) BACKGROUND: China is the world’s biggest crude oil importer and top buyer of copper, coal, iron ore and soybeans. (Reporting by Asia Commodities and Energy team; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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