China’s iron ore imports rose 14.6% in November from a month earlier to hit their highest since July 2020, customs data showed on Tuesday, although a sluggish steel market damped demand for the raw material.
The world’s biggest consumer of iron ore brought in 104.96 million tonnes last month, up from October’s imports of 91.61 million and were also up 6.9% from Nov. 2020, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.
The jump in imports, dominated by products from Australia and Brazil, outstripped market expectations amid cooling iron ore prices and slack demand for steel.
“November imports data could be affected by the customs clearance factor,” said Tang Binghua, an analyst with Founder CIFCO Futures in Beijing, adding that shipments and arrivals of iron ore did not change significantly in recent months.
But it is unlikely that high levels of imports will continue, said Tang, as consumption is weak after China stepped up output controls on mills during the heating season and ahead of the Winter Olympics.
Stocks of imported iron ore at Chinese ports grew for 10 straight weeks, jumping last week to 155.5 million tonnes, the highest since mid-2018, data from consultancy Mysteel showed.
In the first 11 months of the year, China imported 1.04 billion tonnes of iron ore, down 3.2% from the corresponding period a year earlier, according to customs.
Tuesday’s data also showed November exports of China’s steel products at 4.36 million tonnes, down 3.1% on a monthly basis.
Last month, steel imports rose to 1.42 million tonnes, an increase of 25.7% on the month, customs said.
China’s exports and imports of steel products over the period from January to November were 61.88 million tonnes and 13.27 million respectively.