Buying by China, which overtook the US during the first quarter as the world's biggest importer, averaged 8.4 million barrels a day in April, down 8.8 percent from a record the previous month, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data Monday from the General Administration of Customs.
China bought 27.54 million tonnes of the of soybeans during the first four months of 2017, up 18 percent from the same period previous year, according to customs data. Net exports of oil products fell nearly 49 percent from March to 1.01 million tons.
"China's crude imports will stay at a relatively high level, mostly because of China's rather weak domestic output and strong fuel demand", Tian Miao, a Beijing-based analyst at North Square Blue Oak Ltd., said before the data release. "Imports will reflect that trend first", Xia said.
Imports increased 11.9 per cent, leaving a trade surplus of US$38.05 billion (RM164.0 billion).
But the "pipeline of electronic products in the global supply chain is still likely to keep China's export outlook stable through 2017", Wang said in a note.
The figures follow official and private surveys showing that factory activity expanded at a slower-than-expected pace in April.
China's net steel exports in April stood at 5.41 million mt, down 14% on month and down 32% year on year.
Australia provides around 65 per cent of China's imported iron ore.
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"Growth in inbound shipments will continue to face headwinds, however".
The surplus with the US was $21.34 billion in April, up from $17.74 billion in March and higher than the year-ago period, according to data from China's customs bureau.
China usually buys large volumes of soybeans from May to August.
While the U.S. Treasury Department did not label China a currency manipulator in its most recent report on currency manipulation, the Trump administration has sought other fronts in which to tackle its large trade deficit with Beijing.
In U.S. dollar terms, exports went up 8 percent in April, nearly on par with the 8.2-percent gain registered in the first quarter.
The bank said it expects the economy to grow 6.8% year-on-year in the second quarter, compared to 6.9% in the first three months of 2017.
As President Trump moves to put the interests of America first and to pull out from the multilateral trade pacts, China has time and again impressed upon the world as a supporter of free trade.