Oil Report

Asia's March Iran oil imports hit five-month high

    * Asia March imports total 1.7 mln bpd -govt, ship data
    * China's imports rise nearly 16 pct yr/yr
    * Japan, South Korea, India shipments fall yr/yr

    By Aaron Sheldrick
    TOKYO, April 27 (Reuters) - Imports of Iranian crude oil by
major buyers in Asia rose to the highest in five months in March
as China's purchases surged ahead of possible new sanctions on
the Middle Eastern nation, government and ship-tracking data
    China, India, Japan and South Korea last month imported a
total of 1.73 million barrels per day (bpd) from Iran, the data
showed. That was 12.5 percent lower than a year earlier but the
most since October. 
    A May 12 deadline is looming for U.S. President Donald Trump
to decide on whether to re-impose U.S. economic sanctions on
Tehran that were lifted in 2016 after an agreement was reached
with world powers on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme. 
    French President Emmanuel Macron this week said he had
discussed a "new deal" with Trump in which the United States and
Europe would tackle outstanding concerns about Iran beyond its
nuclear programme. Macron also said he expected Trump to pull
the U.S. out of the deal.
    China's imports of Iranian crude in March surged to 726,000
bpd, up nearly 16 percent from a year earlier and rebounding
from below 500,000 bpd in February.
    India's imports from Iran were down 18 percent to about
430,000 bpd last month. South Korea's purchases were down by
more than a third.
    Imports into Japan dropped about 12 percent from a year
earlier to 196,663 bpd, data from the country's Ministry of
Economy, Trade and Industry showed on Friday.
    The tables below outline Iran crude imports in bpd by Asia's
biggest buyers for last month and the year to date:
 Country         Mar-18        Mar-17   yr/yr pct
 China          726,050       626,185        15.9
 India          430,200       525,700       -18.2
 Japan          196,663       224,604       -12.4
 Korea          374,097       597,935       -37.4
 Total        1,727,010     1,974,424       -12.5
 Country   Jan-Mar 2018  Jan-Mar 2017   yr/yr pct
 China          655,561       559,081        17.2
 India          522,700       573,400        -8.8
 Japan          193,796       221,110       -12.4
 Korea          316,633       519,222       -39.0
 Total        1,688,690     1,872,813        -9.8
 (Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Additional reporting by Osamu
Tsukimori; Editing by Joseph Radford)