China Can’t Resist $30 Oil as African, North Sea Cargoes Surge

Last month’s plunge in crude to $30 a barrel proved too much of a bargain for China to turn down even as its economy lurches toward the weakest growth in a generation.

Chinese companies booked tankers to collect more West African crude in February than in any single month since at least 2011, data from the physical shipping market collated by Bloomberg show. It also increased its purchases of oil from producers in the North Sea and Russia. The voyages are all thousands of miles farther than the Middle East, which supplies most to the Asian country.

“This surge in Chinese demand for crude goes against recent macroeconomic news coming out of the country but is very much in line with their past behaviour in low flat price environments,” Olivier Jakob, managing director of Petromatrix GmbH, said by phone. “Whenever there has been a strong retracement in prices China has loaded up their reserves.”

Oil has plunged this year amid signs that China’s economy is slowing. The nation’s growth will slow to 6.5 percent this year, the weakest since 1990, according to forecasts and government data compiled by Bloomberg. Today’s PMI data showed a drop to a three-year low, with the official factory gauge signaling contraction for a record sixth month.

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