Imports climbed 20 percent from a year earlier to an all-time high of USD 189.52 billion in August, beating market forecasts of 18.7 percent and following a 27.3 percent growth in July. China's unwrought copper imports rose 7.7 percent from a year earlier to 420,000 tonnes and were down 6.7 percent from July's 450,000 tonnes. Also, imports of copper concentrate rose 15.4 percent to 1.66 million tonnes, but declined by 9.7 percent from a month earlier of 1.84 million tonnes. Crude shipments increased 12.9 percent to 38.38 million tonnes, and also grew 6.6 percent from the previous month's reading of 36.01 million tonnes, boosted by a rebound in demand from smaller, independent refiners. Natural gas imports were at 7.77 million tonnes in August, up 37.3 percent year-on-year and up 5.4 percent from 7.37 million in July, as state-owned enterprises stock up ahead of winter. China's coal imports went up 13.5 percent year-on-year to 28.68 million tonnes, but were slightly below July's figure of 28.68 million tonnes. Imports of iron ore were up 0.8 percent from the prior year to 89.3 million tonnes, but were down by 0.7 percent from July's 89.95 million tonnes due to continued anti-pollution measures and environmental inspections. In addition, imports of soybeans surged 8.3 percent from the prior year to 9.15 million tonnes, and were higher than July's 8.00 milion tonnes, as buyers continued to buy from Brazil after Beijing imposed tariffs on US shipments. China imposed a 25 percent tariff on a list of American products totalling USD 34 billion, including soybeans, on July 6th, in response to US penalties on Chinese goods worth the same amount.
Exports rose at a softer 9.8 percent to USD 217.43 billion, after a 12.2 percent gain in July and slightly below expectations of 10.1 percent. It was the smallest increase in exports since March amid an escalating trade dispute between China and the US, with President Donald Trump recently threatening to impose duties on another USD 267 billion of Chinese goods. Unwrought aluminium and products exports jumped 26.1 percent year-on-year to 517,000 tonnes and were up 1.4 percent from July's 510,000 tonnes. In addition, sales of rice surged 279.3 percent to 258,000 tonnes, and were also 17.3 percent higher from 220,000 tonnes in July. Meanwhile, exports of steel products fell 9.9 percent to 5.88 million tonnes from 6.52 million tonnes last year, as the world's top producer of steel and aluminium has been subject to 25 percent steel and 10 percent aluminium import tariffs, in the United States, since March 23rd.
The trade surplus with the US, China's largest export market, widened to a fresh record high of USD 31.05 billion in August from USD 28.09 billion in July. Exports to the country rose 13.2 percent even with US tariffs targeting USD 50 billion of Chinese exports in effect for their first full month in August, while imports increased only by 2.7 percent.
Over the first eight months of the year, the trade surplus decreased to USD 194.01 billion from USD 263.00 billion in the same period 2017. The eight-month period trade surplus with the US was reported at USD 192.64 billion, up 15 percent from the same period of the previous year.
In yuan-denominated terms, China's trade surplus came in at CNY 179.75 billion in August, as imports jumped 18.8 percent and exports went up 7.9 percent. For January-August, the trade surplus narrowed 31.3 percent to CNY 1.25 trillion, as imports grew 13.7 percent and exports were up 5.4 percent.