China’s April iron ore imports stay high as lower prices draw buyers

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China’s April iron ore imports ticked up 1.1% from the previous month, customs data showed on Thursday, as lower prices in March encouraged some buyers to place orders for more volumes betting demand and prices will pick up later.

The world’s largest iron ore consumer imported 101.82 million metric tons of the key steelmaking ingredient last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.

That was higher than 100.72 million tons in March and 90.44 million tons in April 2023.

The obvious annual increase is mainly due to a low base effect, the volume last April was relatively low, but since there is no big change in the daily consumption of iron ore among domestic steelmakers, imports in April remained high,” said Pei Hao, a Shanghai-based analyst at international brokerage Freight Investor Services.

Actually, the second quarter will probably also see comparatively higher imports versus year-ago levels following an annual increase in the first quarter.”

A slower-than-expected recovery in hot metal output in March put downward pressure on ore prices.

Seaborne iron ore prices SH-CCN-IRNOR62 averaged $109.7 a ton in March, down 12% from February and down 14.6% from the average in March 2023, respectively, data from consultancy Steelhome showed.

Higher shipments in late March to catch up with quarterly targets also contributed to a relatively high import volume in April, said analysts.

China’s iron ore imports in the first four months of 2024 totalled 411.82 million tons, up 7.2% from the same period in 2023, the data showed.

Both ore demand and prices will be better in the second half of the year, benefiting from a quicker issuance of special bonds in the second quarter, stimulus including equipment upgrade and robust steel exports, said Jiang Mengtian, an analyst.

China’s steel exports in April jumped by 16.3% from the year earlier to 9.22 million tons.

April’s shipments brought the total for January to April to 35.02 million tons, the highest for the period since 2016, a rise of 27% year-on-year, the data showed.

China’s steel imports last month stood at 658,000 tons, with the total for January-April sliding 3.7% on the year to 2.41 million tons.

Source: Reuters