China's ravenous for iron ore, copper and oil

Despite the slowing growth in China’s overall economy, the country’s commodities imports increased sharply in 2012, with iron ore, copper and crude oil reaching record highs.

Official figures released Thursday, CNBC Asia reports, show that iron ore imports hit a record high in December and for all of 2012, rising 8.4%. While the increase reflected a slightly slower pace than in the previous year, it was still faster than the overall economy.

In terms of dollars, Beijing’s iron ore imports in 2012 totalled $95.6 billion, standing at 743.6m tonnes.

The increased demand helped improved iron ore prices, with spot prices racing to a 15-month high of nearly $160 a ton Monday. This is the highest reached by the commodity since October 2011, and up an astonishing 75% from its September lows.

Crude oil imports jumped 6.8%, while copper demand grew 14.1%, both rising faster than in 2011.

Why it matters

China is the largest consumer of certain commodities, such as iron ore and coal. Major miners, including Rio Tinto (ASX, LON, NYSE:RIO), Xstrata (LON:XTA), BHP Billiton (ASX, NYSE: BHP) and Vale (NYSE:VALE) rely on the Asian nation’s appetite for their minerals and metals.

Chinese demand supports prices for commodities such as iron ore and coal, making it crucial to mining companies profits.

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