China’s May iron ore imports stay robust, majors squeeze rivals – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – May 23, 2016)

LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA – China’s imports of iron ore are likely to have maintained their recent strength in May, as top suppliers Australia and Brazil continue to squeeze market share from smaller rivals.

Imports this month are likely to come in around 84.76 million tonnes, according to vessel tracking data compiled by Thomson Reuters Commodity Research and Forecasts.

This would represent a modest increase on April’s official customs figure of 83.92 million tonnes, but be slightly below the 85.77 million tonnes reported for March.  Ship-monitoring data doesn’t exactly align with customs figures due to timing issues, but the margin of error over the first four months of 2016 was only 1.5 percent.

The data shows that 547 vessels are expected to have discharged iron ore cargoes by May 31 at Chinese ports, although it’s possible that some of these ships may be delayed in berthing, thereby pushing their cargoes into the following month’s official numbers.

The ongoing robustness in iron ore imports make sense given China’s steel mills are continuing to crank out products at elevated rates amid hopes for a surge in demand on the back of increased infrastructure spending and an improvement in building construction.

China’s crude steel output rose 0.5 percent to 69.4 million tonnes in April from the same month a year earlier, according to data from the World Steel Association.

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