By WAYNE MA
BEIJING -- China's crude-oil imports surged to a record high in July due to healthy demand from refiners, in another sign of resilience in its economy.
July's record crude imports aligned with other positive trade data coming out of China. The country's iron-ore imports also were at a record high in July, due to a spurt of construction demand and inventory rebuilding. China's overall exports in July beat analysts' expectations.
China, the second-largest oil consumer after the US, imported 26.11 million metric tons, or 6.17 million bpd, of crude in July, customs authorities said Thursday. This was 20% more than the same month last year, and up 18% from June, according to calculations by The Wall Street Journal.
Although July's imports were the highest on record, the numbers should be taken into context with the year so far, said Kang Wu, an analyst at FGE Energy. China's crude imports in the first seven months rose just 1.4% from a year earlier, and compare with a 6.8% rise in full-year 2012.
Mr. Wu said July's record could be attributed to expectations of a "moderate recovery" in the Chinese economy in the second half of the year after a disappointing first half. "If you're at the bottom, the only way to go is up," he said. China's gross domestic product growth in the second quarter of 2013 slowed to 7.5% from a 7.7% rise in the first quarter.
Jean Zou, an analyst at ICIS C1 Energy, said strong demand in July from Chinese refiners such as China Petroleum and Chemical Corp., known as Sinopec, may have contributed to July's record. Sinopec was expected to process as much as 20.1 million tons of crude in July, up slightly from June, according to ICIS C1 Energy.
Ms. Zou also pointed to a major issue at China's second-largest oil field, known as Shengli, which has stopped supplying crude to a number of Sinopec's refineries due to the discovery of impurities in late May. The issue, she said, may have led to an increase in overseas purchases.
The US Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that China is the leading contributor to projected growth in global oil consumption over the next few years. The country's demand is expected to rise by 4.1% to 10.7 million bpd this year, it said.
Dow Jones Newswires