BEIJING, March 8 China's coal imports fell by
almost a third in February from the previous month to their
lowest in a year, customs data showed on Wednesday, as buying
slowed due to the weeks-long Lunar New Year holiday and the peak
winter heating season neared an end.
The world's largest buyer of the fuel imported 17.68 million
tonnes of coal, down 29 percent from January, figures from the
General Administration of Customs of China showed. That was up
30.6 percent from last February.
Arrivals for the first two months of 2017, which smoothes
out the impact of the Lunar New Year holiday falling at
different times, totalled 42.61 million tonnes, up 48.5 percent.
"The sharp month on month plunge suggested business
activities in downstream factories slowed as demand softened
during the prolonged Lunar New Year holiday," said Wang Fei, a
coal analyst with Hua'an Futures.
"We are expecting China's coal imports to remain subdued on
a monthly basis between March and May as the heating season in
northern provinces wraps up and electricity demand in southern
China will also see a drop as temperatures climb."
The data comes after China slapped a surprise ban in
mid-February on imports from North Korea, the country's main
supplier of anthracite coal.
The year-on-year rise in February suggested a sustained
pick-up in buying for cheaper foreign coal amid a domestic coal
price rally, which has been triggered by governments efforts to
phase out overcapacity.
The figures include lignite, a type of coal with lower
heating value that is largely supplied by Indonesia.
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(Reporting by Lusha Zhang and Josephine Mason; Editing by