Chinese iron ore demand slips as steel curbs bite – by Michael Smith (Australian Financial Review – August 19, 2021)

China’s iron ore imports have fallen for the fourth consecutive month by volume, in the latest sign that Beijing’s restrictions on steel output are sapping demand for Australia’s most valuable export commodity at a time when Scott Morrison is betting on a quick economic recovery.

China’s demand for iron ore is also being clouded by growing concerns about the impact of its worst COVID-19 outbreak since early last year, inflationary pressures and a slowing manufacturing sector on its economic recovery.

While analysts attributed earlier decreases to supply issues from Australia and Brazil, they said on Monday that the latest trade data indicated the Chinese government’s directive to lower steel production was starting to filter through to iron ore volumes.

Any structural change in China’s robust demand for iron ore is bad news for Australia’s mining giants and the broader economy. However, Australia’s imports to China still hit a record high for the first seven months of the year despite Beijing’s restrictions on goods including wine, beef and barley.

China’s latest trade data, released at the weekend, revealed that iron imports by volume fell to 88.51 million tonnes in July compared with 89.41 million the previous month.

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