China iron ore imports off to strong start; support rally – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – February 1, 2017)

LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA – There is fundamental justification for the strong start to 2017 for iron ore prices, with imports by top buyer China remaining robust and showing no signs of easing. A total of 86.6 million tonnes was reported as discharged at Chinese ports in January, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters Supply Chain and Commodity Forecasts.

The risk is that this figure may actually rise in coming days as the ship-tracking and port data indicates that a further 13.2 million tonnes was due to have arrived at Chinese ports by Jan. 31.

If some of these cargoes were discharged before the end of month it could push total imports for January to close to 90 million tonnes, which would be the strongest monthly outcome since the record of 96.26 million in December 2015.

It’s worth noting that ship-tracking data doesn’t exactly align with customs figures, given differences in when cargoes are assessed as having been discharged, with the ship data typically under-reporting customs numbers.

For example, vessel-tracking data showed a total of 987.6 million tonnes of iron ore being discharged in China in 2016, which is 3.6 percent lower than the 1.02 billion tonnes reported by customs.

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