How coronavirus affected China’s commodity imports

In late February, Urals spot quotes for delivery to North-Western Europe for the first time since July 2017 fell below $ 50 per barrel. The reason, as in the case of the Brent brand price, which also reached an almost three-year low, was fears around the coronavirus epidemic. It can lead to a decrease in imports from China, the second largest oil consumer, whose share in world demand in 2018 amounted to 13.5% according to BP (no more recent estimates).

Picture of recession
From a formal point of view, these fears have not yet been realized: in February, China increased its marine oil imports in annual terms by 5.8% to 35.8 million tons (hereinafter Refinitiv statistics of tanker traffic, excluding data for February 29, excluded for a larger comparability). This is even more than in January (an increase of 3.3%), and almost the same as in December (by 5.9%). However, it should be borne in mind that, for example, in January, more than 80% of oil shipments (33.8 million out of 41.8 million tons) came from tankers that were sent to the shores of China before 2020. In February, the share of such shipments amounted to significant 20% (7.3 million of 35.8 million tons).