RPT-COLUMN-Caution needed over weakness in China’s imports of iron ore, coal – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – November 9, 2017)


LAUNCESTON, Australia, Nov 9 (Reuters) – If the sharp drop in China’s iron ore imports in October looks suspicious, it should be viewed in the light of the record high the previous month and a holiday week.

Preliminary commodity import figures released on Wednesday by China’s General Administration of Customs showed iron ore imports for October slumping to 79.5 million tonnes, down a massive 22.7 percent from September’s all-time high of 102.8 million.

October’s imports were the weakest since February 2016, sparking market concern that China’s cuts to steel output over the winter in order to lower pollution were biting far harder, and faster, than initially anticipated.

But while iron ore imports may well moderate somewhat in coming months, the October slump and the September record would better viewed as a whole, rather than two separate months.

It’s most likely the case that the week-long holiday early in October caused a pull-forward of iron ore cargoes, boosting the September figures at the expense of October. Putting the two months together gives a total of 182.3 million tonnes, or an average of 91.2 million.

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