LAUNCESTON, Australia, Oct 17 (Reuters) – The detail of China’s record iron ore imports in September is likely to prove more interesting than the headline-grabbing surge above 100 million tonnes for the first time.
Preliminary customs data released on Oct. 13 showed China imported 103 million tonnes of the steel-making ingredient in September, a 16 percent jump on August’s figure and shattering the previous monthly record of 96.6 million from March.
The prevailing market view is that the sharp jump in September is most likely a last hurrah ahead of some slower months as winter restrictions on steel output come into force.
This means that Chinese steel mills and traders have effectively front-loaded iron ore imports, suggesting that arrivals will moderate in the fourth quarter as steel cutbacks start to bite. Authorities in some of China’s steel-producing provinces have ordered mills to cut output in a bid to lower air pollution in the upcoming winter months.
In Tangshan, a major steel-making city, authorities last week ordered mills to cut sintering – a process using coal to upgrade lower-quality iron ore prior to it being fed into a blast furnace – by 50 percent, joining other centres in implementing anti-pollution measures.