Iron Ore Imports by China Advance to Highest Level This Year

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Iron ore imports by China climbed to the highest level this year after Australia and Brazil boosted shipments and as mills increased inventories.

Inbound cargoes were 86.1 million metric tons in July from 74.96 million tons a month earlier and 82.52 million tons a year ago, according to customs figures released Saturday. Imports totaled 539 million tons in the first seven months, little changed from a year earlier, the data showed.

Iron ore sank to a six-year low in early July before rallying into a bull market as investors weighed Chinese port inventories near 19-month lows against signs the economy was slowing. Shipments from Australia and Brazil, the largest exporters, surged in June as Rio Tinto Group and Vale SA raised output, seeking to boost volumes and reduce cost per ton. The voyage to China from Brazil takes about 35 days, three times the journey from Australia, AXSMarine Ltd. estimates.

“Inventories had fallen fairly substantially, so there’s been some restocking,” Wu Zhili, an analyst at Shenhua Futures Co. in Shenzhen, said by phone after the data. “The major producers in Australia and Brazil are seeking to ship more as they press on with supply expansions.”

Ore with 62 percent content delivered to Qingdao fell 0.7 percent to $56.40 a dry ton on Thursday, according to Metal Bulletin Ltd. The price data aren’t published on Aug. 7 and Aug. 10 because of Singapore public holidays and resume Aug. 11.

Steelmakers in China may be ramping up output before the government orders production cuts at some mills to ensure clean air in Beijing for a parade in September, according to UBS Group AG, which said the increase may be boosting iron ore.

Australia shipped 67.9 million tons in June, the most ever for government data starting 1988. Exports from Brazil rose to 32 million tons in June and extended the increase to 34 million tons in July, the highest this year, the trade ministry says.

Inventories at Chinese ports have climbed 3.5 percent to 82.1 million tons from a 19-month low of 79.35 million tons at the end of June, according to Shanghai Steelhome Information Technology Co. Stockpiles contracted about 18 percent this year.