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China spends less on imports amid falling commodity prices

Updated: Nov 9,2014 8:23 PM     Xinhua

Price slumps in the global commodity market continued to allow China to spend less while importing more, helping China save on enormous import bills, latest customs data showed.

In the first ten months of this year, China imported 252.6 million tonnes of crude oil, an increase of 9.2 percent from a year earlier, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs (GAC) on Nov 8.

The average price of crude oil imports stood at 4,731.2 yuan ($769) per tonne, down 2.4 percent from a year earlier.

In October alone, China imported 24.1 million tonnes of crude oil, a decrease of 12.7 percent from the previous month. But the import value in October fell by a larger margin of 16.8 percent from that in September to 17.05 billion U.S. dollars, GAC data showed.

Global commodity prices, especially crude prices, fell sharply in October, continuing a four-month run of declining prices, banking giant HSBC said in its latest report.

“Prices have fallen as a result of both strong supply and weakening demand,” the HSBC report said.

HSBC indicators suggest that the IMF commodity price index is likely to have fallen by 7 percent in October, bringing the decline over the past three months to 16 percent.

The most recent fall was in large part due to lower oil prices, although there was weakness across other energy commodities and metals too, HSBC said in the report.

Customs data also showed that China’s iron ore imports in the first 10 months jumped 16.5 percent from a year earlier to 778.4 million tonnes. But the import value contracted 5.3 percent year on year to 82 billion U.S. dollars.

In the first 10 months, the average price of iron ore imports tumbled 19.8 percent year-on-year to 646.9 yuan.

China has been one of the top net importers of crude oil and iron ore, which made up 11.3 percent and 5.4 percent of China’s total imports in 2013 respectively.

If crude oil and iron ore prices stay at current levels for the rest of the year, China could save around 4.5 billion U.S. dollars per month compared to a year ago, according to a Merrill Lynch report.

China’s coal imports reported a similar story. Coal imports contracted 7.7 percent to 243 million tonnes in the first 10 months. But the coal import value plunged 20.6 percent from a year earlier to 18.8 billion U.S. dollars.

The average price for coal imports was 475.6 per tonne, down 15.3 percent from a year ago, GAC data showed.