SHANGHAI, May 28 (SMM) –
According to China Customs, China imported 134,600 mt of lead concentrate during April, down 8.8% MoM, while YTD lead concentrate imports through April rose to 538,300 mt, up 10.55% YoY.
Lead prices in China’s domestic markets have been moving in a narrow range and have been resistant to significant declines since the start of the year. In contrast, LME lead prices have been volatile, raising the Shanghai/LME lead price ratio as high as 7.9 in late March when LME lead prices slumped. As a result, sources tell SMM that some domestic smelters took the opportunity to import concentrate, raising China’s lead concentrate imports for that month.
The US and Australia, two major exporters of lead concentrate, were not the main suppliers of China’s lead concentrate imports during April. However, many importers and smelters say they did in fact import lead concentrate from those two countries. SMM expects these imports will be reflected in import volumes over the next few months as the goods arrive in China and clear customs.
According to China Customs, China’s refined lead imports during April were 739 mt, up 41.3% MoM, while YTD refined lead imports through April were 1,902 mt, down 21.46% YoY. Refined lead exports in April were 25 mt, down 94.58% from the previous month, while YTD refined lead exports were 518 mt, down 87.65% from a year ago.
SMM believes the recent rally in the Shanghai/LME lead price ratio, especially during late March to early April when the ratio stood above 7.9, contributed to the MoM growth of refined lead imports. In addition, since China mainly imports lead from other Asian countries, such as South Korea and Japan, lead imports ordered during April should soon arrive in China.
However, 739 mt in lead imports is not considered high, so the sharp increase in lead imports during April should be attributed to the extremely low import level during March. At present, the Shanghai/LME lead price ratio leaves little profit for importing refined lead when taking high import duties and foreign exchange into account. Coupled with sufficient lead supply and weak demand for refined lead in China’s domestic markets, refined lead imports will likely remain low.