SHANGHAI, Apr. 28 (SMM) –
According to China Customs, China imported 147,700 mt lead concentrate during March, down 11.72% from February.
Peru and Russia were China’s largest suppliers of lead concentrate during March. Lead concentrate imported from Peru, Russia, and Australia accounted for 44.95% of China’s total imports during March, with the remaining imports primarily from South Africa, Iran, and Ireland.
Considering shipping times, most March arrivals were orders for lead concentrate placed during February, so declines in MoM imports are actually due to fewer orders for lead concentrate placed in February.
LME lead prices rebounded during March and moved between USD 2,050-2,250/mt, leaving the Shanghai/LME lead price ratio between 7.2-7.5 and fewer opportunities for importing lead concentrate in February compared to January.
Although the Shanghai/LME lead price ratio rose briefly to 7.7, importers were still not able to place orders since the ratio failed to remain high during February as LME lead prices rebounded. As a result, importers only made inquiries and transactions in foreign trade markets were limited.
China’s lead concentrate imports during 1Q totaled 403,600 mt, up 14.5% from a year earlier.
According to China Customs, China’s refined lead imports during March were 523 mt, down 10.45% from February, while the YTD imports through March were 1,163 mt, down 23.42% YoY.
China imported 502 mt of refined lead from South Korea, accounting for as much as 96% of the total imports, with the remainder primarily from Nigeria.
China’s imports and exports of refined lead have been low since 2H 2011. In addition to weak lead prices and an unfavorable Shanghai/LME lead price ratio, a surplus of domestic refined lead supply also discouraged refined lead imports.
An SMM survey revealed operating rates at both motive and fixed lead-acid battery enterprises fell during March, and with operating rates at start-up battery enterprises only rising slightly, resulting in a lower average operating rate for the battery sector. In addition, operating rates at major domestic primary lead smelters were up in March, raising refined lead output from February levels. Given current sufficient lead supply in domestic markets, battery enterprises did not need to import refined lead, helping refined lead concentrate imports fall during March on a MoM basis.