SHANGHAI, Jul. 2 (SMM) –
Data from China Customs show China imported 139,100 mt of lead concentrate during May, up 3.39% from April. Lead concentrate imports during the first five months of this year reached 677,400 mt, a YoY growth rate of 18.7%.
During May, China imported lead concentrate from Peru, the US, Russia, Mexico and Australia. Since more than half of imports came from countries far from China, transportation times were increased. Since no lead concentrate was imported from the above countries during April, lead concentrate arriving at ports during May were likely imported at prices offered before April.
LME lead prices plummeted below USD 2,000/mt in late March, but domestic spot lead prices proved more resilient, causing the Shanghai/LME lead price ratio to rise to 7.9, allowing more opportunity for importing lead concentrate. As a result, some domestic smelters continued to import, with goods arriving at ports reflected in May data.
Data from China Customs reveals that China’s refined lead imports during May reached 1,840 mt, growing 1.49 times on a monthly basis and recording the highest monthly volume since October 2010. YTD imports through May were 3,743 mt, down 7.86% YoY.
Over 60% of China’s lead imports for May came from South Korea, with the remainder mainly from Singapore. Most refined lead imports during May were from countries relatively close to China, cutting shipping times and quickly reflected in customs data. South Korea was still the largest supplier of China’s refined lead imports, providing nearly 80% of China’s total lead imports during the first five months of 2012.
The sharp rise in refined lead imports during May is attributed to low import volumes recorded in April, as well as a rising Shanghai/LME lead price ratio caused by slumping lead prices during the second half of May. LME lead prices have fallen from USD 2,000/mt, to USD 1,900/mt during the second half of May, while domestic spot lead prices have remained relatively firm, pushing up the Shanghai/LME lead price ratio to 7.9, suitable for importing refined lead. Although refined lead was not in short supply in domestic markets, the continuous decline in lead prices has forced smelters to limit sales, forcing some enterprises turned to lower-priced imports.