* Oil imports fall to 5.05 mln bpd on refinery overhauls
* Copper eases to 387,564 tonnes, second-highest this yr
* Iron ore slips to 69 mln tonnes, third-highest on record
* Soybeans down to 6.37 mln T, third-highest on record
By Fayen Wong
SHANGHAI, Sept 8 China's imports of crude oil,
iron ore, copper and soybeans fell in August from July's record
highs, but shipments stayed at elevated levels as manufacturing
activity in the world's second-largest economy gains pace.
Headline trade data showed China's overall imports and
exports in August were stronger than expected and have sustained
the upward trend since July, adding to evidence that the world's
top commodity buyer may have avoided a sharp slowdown.
China is showing signs of a steadying economy after growth
slowed for nine of the past 10 quarters, with robust production
from steel mills, refineries, power plants and smelters helping
to boost consumption of raw materials.
"Imports in August may have slipped from a month ago, but
they are still at very high levels, which is a reflection of
strong underlying demand as the economy recovers," said Zhang
Yu, an analyst at Yongan Commodity Futures.
The Customs Administration said on Sunday that exports rose
7.2 percent in August from a year earlier and imports rose 7
percent, leaving the country with a trade surplus of $28.6
billion for the month.
As recently as a month ago, investors had worried China's
economy was slipping into a deeper-than-expected downturn,
especially after its money market suffered an unprecedented cash
crunch in June.
But policymakers have stepped in with measures to steady the
economy, from quicker railway investment and public housing
construction to new policies to help smaller companies with
Crude oil imports from China, the world's largest buyer
after the United States, hit a six-month low of 21.43 million
tonnes in August, and were down 17.9 percent from July. Average
daily imports stood at 5.05 million barrels per day, off July's
record high of 6.15 million bpd.
But imports in August were still up 16.5 percent from a year
ago, taking total shipments in the first eight months of the
year to 185.61 million tonnes, up 2.9 percent from a year ago.
Traders have attributed the monthly decline to overhauls at
several major refineries, including PetroChina's 120,000-bpd
Urumqi refinery in the northwestern region of Xinjiang and its
120,000-bpd Daqing refinery in northeastern Heilongjiang.
China imported 69.01 million tonnes of iron ore in August,
down 5.6 percent from July's record high of 73.14 million, data
from customs showed.
Despite the fall, August arrivals were still the
third-highest on record and a gain of 10.5 percent from a year
The strength in imports has been driven by robust Chinese
steel production, with daily runs hovering at above 2.1 million
tonnes in the first 20 days of August, up from a July average of
The rush to replenish inventories had lifted global
benchmark iron ore prices .IO62-CNI=SI by 6 percent, to a
5-month high of nearly $143 a tonne in August. But with mills
now well-stocked, trade sources said prices could stay
rangebound at current levels of around $130 a tonne.
"The next month looks pretty hard to call - it is too early
for restocking," said Graeme Train, a Shanghai-based analyst at
"Iron ore supplies are going to increase and I don't think
they (steel mills) will feel any kind of urgency to hold more
inventory than they have at the moment. I think they are in a
bit of a holding pattern now."
China's arrivals of anode, refined copper, alloy and
semi-finished copper products fell to 387,564 tonnes in August,
down 5.6 percent from July's 14-month high, confounding market
expectations of an increase.
"This is a surprise. Some contracted shipments may have been
resold before the metal arrived China," Yang Xiaoguang, analyst
at Jinrui Futures said. "Weak seasonal demand in July and August
may also have cut arrivals of term shipments."
But August shipments was still the second-highest this year
and up 8.9 percent from a year ago.
Traders said copper arrivals were likely to stay strong in
September but rising inventories at bonded warehouses, along
with a recent correction in spot copper premiums in China, may
prompt buyers to cut previously booked orders.
China, the world's top buyer of soybean, imported 6.37
million tonnes of the oil seed in August, down 11.5 percent from
July's record of 7.2 million.
Still, August arrivals were the third-highest on record and
have jumped 44 percent from a year ago, as domestic crushers
boosted imports of cheap South American soy to fatten crushing
margins ahead of the holiday season in September and October.
Imports in the first eight months rose 4.4 percent on the
year to 41.05 million tonnes, customs data showed, as a
fast-growing poultry industry boosts demand for soy meal and
planting areas shrink as farmers switch to more profitable
(Additional reporting by David Stanway and Polly Yam; Editing
by Clarence Fernandez)