China has kicked off the new year with a surge in imports across major commodities, indicating a robust beginning amid economic caution surrounding the Lunar New Year holidays.
Despite the upcoming Lunar New Year falling in February this year, traders and end-users seem to have accelerated purchases in January. The week-long holidays, from Feb. 9 to 15, may have influenced the strong January imports of crude oil, liquefied natural gas (LNG), thermal coal, and iron ore.
Commodity analysts report impressive figures, particularly in iron ore imports, which are estimated to have reached close to record highs. January's iron ore imports are estimated at 112.57 million metric tons, a noteworthy acceleration from December's customs numbers.
Seaborne thermal coal imports also saw a strong start in 2024, continuing a trend of robust arrivals driven by lower prices compared to domestic supplies and increased power demand during the winter peak.
LNG imports, though slightly lower than December, remained substantial and exceeded previous year figures. Lower spot prices for LNG during winter likely fueled increased demand, although volumes may moderate in the coming months as China transitions between seasonal peaks.
Meanwhile, China's crude oil imports-maintained momentum in January, supported by lower crude prices arranged in the previous quarter. However, rising geopolitical concerns in the Middle East and subsequent increases in Brent prices may impact import growth in the second quarter.
Overall, China's strong commodity imports signal a positive start to the new year, reflecting continued resilience and demand in the world's second-largest economy amidst global uncertainties.