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China’s Appetite for Commodities Sapped by Virus, Surging Prices

  • Coal imports pressured by price controls and more hydropower
  • Aluminum exports hit a record due to disruptions caused by war
A coal depot near a power station in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, China.

A coal depot near a power station in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, China.

Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

China’s appetite for many of its key commodities remained subdued in May as a cocktail of surging international prices and domestic virus restrictions, including the city-wide shutdown of Shanghai, sapped demand.

Coal and gas shipments continued to languish, according to customs data on Thursday, due to milder weather, and as a weaker economy and the impact of the war in Ukraine on energy markets dissuaded importers. Crude imports were a bright spot, rising to 45.8 million tons and the highest since January, although the figure may have been inflated by more oil arriving at discounted prices from origins like Russia, Iran and Venezuela.