Aerial view of the port container terminal of Taicang, Suzhou city, Jiangsu province of China, October 4, 2021.
Finnish | Barcroft Media | Getty Images
BEIJING — China reported disappointing import growth in September, while exports exceeded expectations, according to data released by customs on Wednesday.
US dollar imports rose 17.6% from a year ago to $240 billion last month. That’s less than the 20% estimated by analysts polled by Reuters.
China’s sales of goods to other countries remained a bright spot for the economy. US dollar exports rose 28.1% year-on-year to $305.74 billion in September, beating the 21% growth rate expected by the Reuters poll.
China’s trade surplus with the US rose to a monthly record $42 billion – exports rose about 30% from a year ago, while imports rose just under 17%. The US remained China’s largest trading partner on a single-country basis.
The volume of Chinese imports of soybeans, of which the US is the largest supplier, fell 30% in September from a year ago, although the value in US dollars rose by about 10%.
Paying for coal
China’s imports of coal and related products rose 76% in September from a year ago to 32.9 million tons, the highest monthly level since December. The value of those coal imports has more than tripled year over year to $3.91 billion.
According to futures traded on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange, prices for thermal coal, the primary fuel for power generation, have more than doubled this year. A shortage of coal has led to power cuts in factories and authorities have called for more coal imports, including from Russia.
Chinese natural gas imports rose 21.8% year-on-year to 10.6 million tons in September, more than doubling to $5.19 billion.
However, crude oil purchases fell 15.2% from a year ago to 41.1 million tons last month, while the value of those imports rose 35%. The US was the largest producer of crude oil last year and China was the top destination for US exports of the commodity, accounting for 15%, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
A breakdown of Chinese coal imports by country was not yet available on Wednesday afternoon.
Australia was once China’s largest source of imported thermal coal. But China stopped buying Australian coal in late 2020 as political tensions escalated after Australia supported an investigation into Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Customs data from Wednesday showed that Chinese imports from Australia rose about 50% year-on-year to $15.04 billion in September, while exports rose nearly 24% year-on-year to about $6 billion.