Surging China iron ore imports can’t stem price decline

The Northern China import price of 62% Fe content ore fell sharply for a second day in a row on Wednesday, giving up 2.6% to trade at $85.3 per dry metric tonne, the lowest in a month according to data supplied by The Steel Index.

After a 85% rise in 2016, the price of iron ore is up another 7% in this year and has more than doubled in value since hitting near-decade lows at the end of 2015.

While worries about supply and rising stockpiles have plagued the market, imports by China continued to strengthen in 2017 after hitting an all-time high last year.

Trade figures released on Wednesday showed China imported 83.5 million tonnes of ore in February, up 13% compared to last year.

Total imports for January-February climbed 12.6% to 175.3 million. Iron ore is averaging $84.90 a tonne in 2017, compared to less than $45 during the first two months last year.

The all-time record for monthly Chinese imports in terms of volume was in December 2015 with shipments totalling 96.3 million tonnes. But the price of iron ore fell to below $40 a tonne pushing the value of shipments below $5 billion.

The all-time record in terms of dollar value was set in January 2014, when the country imported $11.3 billion worth of iron ore back when prices were firmly in triple digit territory.

Forging more than half the world’s steel, Chinese imports of iron ore for the full year 2016 topped one billion tonnes for the first time.

The 1.024 billion tonnes constitute a 7.5% increase over the annual total in 2015 and is indicative to what extent exporters from Brazil and Australia has been able to displace high-cost domestic producers.

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