China’s iron ore imports rose again in August to a 19-month high, customs data showed on Sunday, boosted by rebounding supplies from big miners and mills replenishing inventory as demand stabilised.
Arrivals of the steelmaking raw material totalled 94.85 million tonnes last month, up 4.2% from 91.02 million tonnes in July, to mark the highest level of imports since January 2018.
For the first eight months of 2019, China’s imports of iron ore reached 684.9 million tonnes, down from 710 million tonnes in the same period last year.
“Conditions for seaborne shipments in August to China were steady as big miners have resumed production,” Zhao Xiaobo, an analyst with Sinosteel Futures, said prior to the data’s release.
China’s iron ore imports rebounded 21% in July as shipments grew from big miners in Australia and Brazil, pushing inventory of imported iron ore at Chinese ports to 125.25 million tonnes by the end of August, according to data compiled by SteelHome consultancy.
Some market watchers had speculated demand for iron ore could ease in August due to China’s anti-pollution measures, as especially as Beijing looks to cut smog in the country’s north ahead of Oct. 1 celebrations for modern China’s 70th anniversary.
Mills and other industrial firms in major steelmaking cities have been asked to cut operations throughout September, but the curbs were almost in line with August and more lenient than expected.
“It is possible that big mills will be asked to implement additional temporary production restrictions pending the air quality this month,” Zhao said.
“Demand for steel and its raw materials in this September to October may not be as robust as previous years, especially as China is also restraining its real estate market.”
Utilisation rates at steel mills across the country were at 68.23% this week as of Sept.5, picked up slightly from the end of Aug., data compiled by Mysteel Consultancy showed.
Reporting by Min Zhang and Tom Daly; editing by Richard Pullin