US economy

China’s commodities imports falls highlighting economic weakness

China’s imports of key commodities from copper to iron ore and soyabeans fell in November, in the latest sign of a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy as it grapples with the impact of a trade war with the US.

China’s imports of soyabeans fell to their lowest level in two years, down 38 per cent from a year earlier, following China’s impositions of tariffs on US imports in June.

Soyabeans have become a key battleground in trade discussions between the US and China. They were the largest US agricultural export to China until Beijing raised tariffs by 25 percentage points in a tit-for-tat retaliation against duties that US president Donald Trump imposed on its goods.

The White House said this month that China had agreed to start purchasing agricultural products from the US immediately following talks between President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires.

The lower copper imports point to a more worrying trend and reflect the slowdown in key consumer sectors in China such as air conditioning, housing and autos, according to analysts at Citi.

China’s imports of copper fell by 3 per cent from a year earlier in November, data released on Monday show. Copper prices have fallen 15 per cent this year to trade at $6,122 a tonne.

“The growth of Chinese copper end-use demand in 2019 hinges heavily on Chinese fiscal stimulus that aims to support infrastructure growth and income tax cuts to boost consumption,” Citi said.

China said that iron ore imports also fell by 8.8 per cent in November from a year earlier. China’s steel rebar prices have fallen by 12 per cent over the past month, following a surge in steel production this year.

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