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China’s May iron ore imports up 4% y/y on resilient demand, improved steel margins

China’s imports of iron ore rose 3.95% in May from a year earlier, customs data showed on Wednesday, as the relatively high hot metal output sustained demand for the steelmaking ingredient.

The world’s largest iron ore consumer brought in 96.18 million tonnes of the steelmaking ingredient last month, up from 92.52 million tonnes in May 2022, the General Administration of Customs said.

The May volume was also higher than 90.44 million tonnes imported in April, the data showed.

China’s daily hot metal output – a blast furnace product whose output is often used to gauge iron ore demand – among the 247 steel mills surveyed averaged 2.4 million tonnes in May, up by 0.6% on the year, according to a Reuters calculation based on data from consultancy Mysteel.

The May average is nearly 9% higher than the level at the beginning of this year.

The improved steel margins, thanks to a steeper price fall in raw materials, also encouraged mills to buy more of the ingredient.

The most-traded September iron ore futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange fell by 1.7% in May, while coking coal declined 12.2% and coke contracted 11.6%, while rebar lost 6.4% and hot-rolled coil shed 4.8%.

The profitability of surveyed steel mills rose to 34.2% by the end of May, from 26.41% in late April, Mysteel data showed.

“Slow economic recovery in overseas countries, as well as remaining high iron ore prices, may have incentivized miners to ship more cargoes to China,” said Cheng Peng, a Beijing-based analyst at Sinosteel Futures.

Iron ore imports in the first five months of this year totalled 481 million tonnes, up 7.7% from the previous year, according to customs.


China’s exports of steel products in May rose 7.7% from the previous year to 8.36 million tonnes, the highest since September 2016, the customs data showed. It was also higher than the 7.93 million tonnes shipped abroad in April.

The country exported 36.37 million tonnes of steel products between January and May, a 40.9% year-on-year increase, according to the data.

China imported 631,000 tonnes of steel products last month, down from 806,000 tonnes in May 2022, with the January-May total of 3.13 million tonnes a 37.1% decrease on the year.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Amy Lv and Dominique Patton in Beijing; Editing by Kim Coghill, Savio D’Souza and Rashmi Aich)

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