China Iron Ore Imports Surge to Second-Highest on Steel Demand

Iron ore imports by China, the world’s biggest buyer of the steelmaking raw material, surged to the second-highest on record in November amid higher alloy production and expectation some local mines may shut in winter.

Imports reached 65.78 million metric tons last month, China’s customs bureau said today on its website, the second-highest level after a record 68.97 million tons in January 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Shipments were 17 percent higher than the 56.43 million tons in October and 2.5 percent more than a year earlier.

China’s steel production is set to gain for the 31st straight year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, as the nation invests in homes, roads and railways. Some domestic iron ore mines may halt in winter, driving up imports, said Xu Guangjian, an analyst at market researcher

“The mine-halt expectation may be triggering winter stockpiling,” Beijing-based Xu said by phone. “Traders are also buying on expectation prices will rise.”

Steel output may rise 4.7 percent to 715 million tons this year, according to Custeel.

Iron-ore exports from Australia, the world’s biggest shipper of the ingredient, advanced to a record in October. Exports gained 7.6 percent from September to 44.2 million metric tons, according to government data compiled by Bloomberg. It takes about two weeks for Australian vessels to arrive at Chinese ports.

Iron ore with 62 percent content delivered to the Chinese port of Tianjin climbed 2.2 percent to $121 a dry ton on Dec. 7, the highest since Nov. 19, according to data compiled by The Steel Index Ltd. Prices gained 14 percent in October after advancing 17 percent in September.

China’s iron ore imports gained 8.2 percent to 670 million tons in the first 11 months of this year from a year earlier, according to customs data on its website.

The country exported 4.84 million tons of steel products in November, the customs said. For the first 11 months, shipments rose 12 percent to 45.78 million tons.