Iron ore imports by China this year are on course to exceed 1 billion metric tons by a comfortable margin, breaking 2016’s record, after first-half figures showed another jump in cargoes and highlighted the ability of the top steelmaker to absorb rising supplies. Miners’ shares advanced.
Shipments in June were 94.7 million tons, up from 91.5 million in May, according to customs data on Thursday. In the first six months, imports rose to 539 million tons, 9.3 percent higher than the same period in 2016. Last year, China only just beat the 1 billion ton mark, importing 1.024 billion tons.
Asia’s top economy has been pulling in ever-greater volumes of low-cost ore to meet resilient demand from mills, who’ve benefited from rising steel prices in the second quarter.
The increase is aiding the largest miners including BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group, as well as Brazil’s Vale SA, which is bringing on production from its giant S11D project. While iron prices are lower this year, they’ve rebounded since mid-June, gaining for four of the past five weeks.
“Steel output continues to be on the rise, which will boost consumption of iron ore,” said Zhao Chaoyue, an analyst at China Merchants Futures Co., who forecasts that full-year imports of the raw material will reach 1.08 billion tons. “Mills are making chunky profits, so they’re firing up production.”
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