COLUMN-China’s commodity imports look tepid, may be slightly warmer – Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – April 15, 2019)

LAUNCESTON, Australia, April 15 (Reuters) – If you were looking for evidence that China’s economy has lost momentum, you may be tempted to think that you’ve found it in the unimpressive growth, or lack thereof, in imports of major commodities in the first quarter.

Customs data for the first quarter show only crude oil has recorded significant growth in import volumes in the first quarter, with copper data mixed and iron ore and coal dropping.

This would seem to confirm the narrative of slowing growth in the world’s second-largest economy amid the ongoing trade and tariff dispute with the United States.

But as usual the devil is in the detail and the seemingly lacklustre performance by the world’s largest importer of commodities may not be quite as weak as it first appears.

Iron ore imports increased 4 percent to 86.42 million tonnes in March from February, which doesn’t look that weak especially in the light of the disruption to supply caused by the tailings dam disaster in Brazil and a tropical cyclone in Western Australia.

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