Chinese crude oil imports in July dropped to their lowest level in seven months, although they rose 12 percent on an annual basis, according to calculations made by Reuters on the basis of China’s customs data.
Last month China imported some 34.66 million tons of crude oil, or around 8.16 million bpd, which—according to Reuters calculations based on China’s General Administration of Customs data—was the lowest level since January.
Crude oil imports in the first seven months of this year increased by 13.6 percent at 247 million tons.
The total trade data for July had analysts worried that China’s economy may have started to show signs of slowdown. Both exports and imports increased less than expected, making analysts wonder if global demand growth has started to slow down, or if China’s July trade figures should be attributed solely to one-off or seasonal factors.
In total imports, China’s imports increased by 11 percent last month, missing forecasts for a 16.6-percent rise, and slowing down from June’s 17.2-percent jump, to the slowest growth since December last year.
Last month, a senior manager at Sinopec said that lower domestic production and continued low oil prices will lead to China’s demand for crude oil imports rising by around 400,000 bpd in 2017. Chinese crude oil imports are expected to exceed 400 million tons this year, and to further rise next year, Zhang Haichao, vice president of Sinopec Group, told Reuters. The estimate provided by Zhang means that Chinese demand for foreign crude would rise by 400,000 bpd, and for the first time ever, rising imports could make China the world’s top crude oil importer on an annual basis, according to Reuters.