SHANGHAI, Apr. 23 (SMM) --
China's imports of lead concentrate were 111.6kt during March, lower than February's 118kt, but higher than 102kt during the same period last year. Cumulative imports during 1Q were 328.9kt, up 18.04% YoY. The top three countries of origin were Peru, the US, and Australia, all with greater than 30% growth rates compared to February's imports. According to a CBI survey, overall operating rates at primary lead smelters during March were higher than February, and lead concentrate supply is expected to remain tight.
China's imports of refined lead were 25kt during March, a record high for monthly imports in recent years, and in line with the market predictions. Since the domestic/LME lead price ratio has usually been beneficial for importing during 1Q, imported lead volumes should not decline from customs delays, even as the domestic/LME price ratio began falling since mid-April. In addition, downstream lead-acid battery consumption outperformed market forecasts during 1Q, stimulating producers to import lead to meet production.
Refined lead exports were 395mt during March, a decline to the average level of 2H 2008, indicating overseas markets remain weak.
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