China’s iron ore imports in October fell 1.8% from September, customs data showed on Tuesday, dropping for a second straight month asnarrowing steel margins, wider production cuts among steelmakers and high prices curbed buyers’ appetites.
The world’s top iron ore consumer brought in 99.39 million metric tons of the key steelmaking ingredient last month, down from 101.18 million tons in September, data from the country’s General Administration of Customs showed.
The decline came as less than one-fifth of Chinese steel mills surveyed said they wereoperating at a profit by end-October, down from around one-third in late September, data from consultancy Mysteel showed.
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The capacity utilization rate among blast-furnace-based mills surveyed also dipped to 90.73% as of Oct. 27, down from 93.08% on Sept. 29, according to Mysteel data.
The week-long holiday break in early October also affected customs clearance for some cargoes, thus contributing to lower volumes versus September, said Pei Hao, a Shanghai-based analyst at international brokerage FIS, adding that arrivals in early October are lower.
Still, the iron ore import volumes for October rose4.6% from the same month a year earlier.
The average seaborne iron ore prices hovered around $119 a ton, a 29% rise on the year despite a fall of 1.6% on month, Steelhome data showed.
China’s iron ore imports in the first 10months of 2023 posted a year-on-year rise of 6.5% to 975.84 million tons, the customs data also showed.
Its portside iron ore stocks are set to end the year at the lowest level since 2016, according to forecasts from eight Chinese analysts, while imports in the world’s largest consumer will reach the highest since at least 2020.
Imports in November may be higher than October as the holiday impact recedes and mills started to stockpile volumes for use during winter, said analysts.
China’s exports of steel products in October rose 53.3% from the prior year to 7.94 million tons, but fell 1.5% from 8.06 million tons shipped abroad in September, customs data showed.
Total steel exports from theworld’s largest steel producer totalled 74.73 million tons from January to October, a 34.8% year-on-year increase.
China imported 668,000 tons of steel products last month, down from 770,000 tons in October 2022, with the total over the January-October period at 6.37 million tons, a fall of 30.1% from a year before, according to customs.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Amy Lv and and Dominique Patton in Beijing; Editing by Miral Fahmy, Tom Hogue and Kim Coghill