China Steel Exports at Seven-Month Low as Frictions Escalate

  • Cargoes in first nine months still at a record for the period
  • Export surge boosts imports of iron ore to second-highest ever

Steel exports from China shrank for a third month to the lowest since February after governments around the world sought to dam the flow of metal from the top producing nation.

The country shipped 8.8 million metric tons in September compared with 9 million tons in August and a record 11.2 million tons a year ago, according to China’s customs on Thursday. Still, cargoes in the first nine months were up 2.4 percent on the year at 85.1 million tons, the highest ever for the period.

China’s output has been unexpectedly resilient this year after policy makers boosted stimulus to prop up the economy. The excess supply is spilling over onto world markets, sparking protectionist measures from India to the U.S., and drawing attention from Group of 20 leaders, who pledged last month to establish a global forum to address steel overcapacity.

“The slower growth is largely due to two reasons: trade frictions are rising and overseas orders have fallen, suggesting weaker steel demand globally,” Xu Ke, an analyst at Huatai Futures Co. in Shanghai, said by phone. “Exports could rebound into the year-end as that’s when domestic demand typically softens.”

The drop in steel cargoes is in line with China’s overall exports, which fell the most since February and underscored slowing global demand. The worse-than-expected shipment figures may increase pressure on the yuan at the same time as new property curbs threaten the nation’s growth rate.

Rising steel output has helped lift demand for iron ore. China’s imports of the raw material soared to 93 million tons in September, the second-highest on record, from 87.7 million tons in August and 86.1 million tons a year ago, customs data showed. Inbound cargoes climbed 9.1 percent in the first nine months to 763 million tons.

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