(This is a repeat of an item issued on Saturday)
* Crude oil imports second highest on record
* Copper at 20-mth high, iron ore highest since Feb
* Figures skewed by Oct National Day holiday
By David Stanway
BEIJING, Dec 10 China's imports of crude
oil, copper, soybeans and iron ore all surged in November,
prompted by lower global prices and domestic shortages ahead of
winter, official customs data showed on Saturday.
The double-digit monthly increases in major commodity
imports came as overall growth in foreign trade continued to
China's exports expanded 13.8 percent year on year in
November, the lowest in nine months, evidence of faltering
But traders said that while market signals were partly
responsible for the strong showing in commodities, the extent of
the increases could be a little misleading.
Following the week-long National Day holiday at the
beginning of October, customs officials normally struggle to
keep up with deliveries, prompting them to include earlier
cargoes in their November calculations.
Crude oil imports rose 9 percent from October to 22.96
million tonnes. It was the second highest volume on record when
calculated on a daily basis, hitting 5.52 million barrels per
day, just short of an all-time high of 5.67 million bpd in
"The high refinery runs means you need that amount of crude
imports. It's also to compensate for the loss of Penglai
oilfield," said a Beijing-based oil trader.
China's refinery throughput surged to a record 9.22 million
barrels per day over November, 5.5 percent higher than October,
as big refiners responded to growing diesel shortages as
The country's largest offshore oilfield, the Penglai 19.3,
was ordered to close in September following a 5,500
square-kilometre oil spill.
Seasonal factors were also responsible for the 49.6 percent
increase in soybean imports in November.
The 5.7 million tonne total import volume was broadly in
line with expectations and reflected an improvement in crushing
margins as well as an increase in demand ahead of China's Lunar
New Year holiday in January.
LOW COPPER PRICES
Copper imports were up for the sixth straight month, rising
17.9 percent to 452,022 tonnes and hitting their highest level
since March 2010.
Buyers have been encouraged by relatively low prices and a
domestic shortage of copper scrap brought about by tightened
customs rules. Foreign traders have also been diverting cargoes
to China in order to take advantage of strong premiums.
Benchmark three-month London Metal Exchange copper prices
stood between $7,200 and $8,000 per tonne over November,
down from more than $10,000 in February.
Imports of copper in October stood at 383,507 tonnes, lower
than most analysts had expected, suggesting that some October
deliveries had been included in the November figures.
Refined copper production has also been weak, falling 4.5
percent month-on-month in November, as smelters scheduled
overhauls in order to shield themselves from scrap shortages,
falling domestic prices and weakening demand going into
With stockpiles dwindling, China's steel mills also raced
back to the iron ore market, pushing imports up to 28.6 percent
compared to October to reach a 10-month high of 64.2 million
Exports in October were at their lowest since February, with
traders and steel mills staying away from the market amid
uncertainties about demand, which has been falling sharply since
the end of September.
With no one daring to buy, iron ore prices entered their
most protracted slump in years from September, shedding $50 per
tonne to end October at $117.
Steel production remained relatively low in November, but
were persuaded back to the market to replenish their dwindling
inventories, and traders suggest the recovery is likely to be
"While mills had to replenish their stocks in November I'm
still not optimistic about December as operations slow for the
winter -- we can only hope things will improve next year," said
a trader based in the east China port city of Rizhao.
(Additional reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Sanjeev