The Strategist

China to set a new record of iron ore imports

07/13/2017 - 15:12

This year, import of iron ore to China is likely to significantly exceed 1 billion tons, beating the record in 2016. The data for the first half showed another surge in freight traffic and underscored capability of the largest steel producer to absorb growing marine supplies, Bloomberg reported.

According to customs, the volume of supplies in June amounted to 94.7 million tons, compared with 91.5 million in May. In the first half of the year, imports increased by 9.3%, to 539 million tons, compared to the same period in 2016. Last year, China imported 1.024 billion tons of iron ore.

China buys more and more inexpensive ore to meet steady demand from steel companies that benefited from rising steel prices in the second quarter. This increase helps the largest mining companies, including BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group, as well as Brazilian Vale SA. Iron ore prices fell this year, but they are recovering from the middle of June, showing growth over four of the past five weeks.

"Steel production continues to grow, which will increase consumption of iron ore," said China Merchants Futures Co. analyst, who predicts that the import of raw materials will reach 1.08 billion tons by the end of this year. "Steelmakers are making a big profit, so they are increasing production". 

Chinese iron imports complement local production, although the quality of local raw materials is generally lower than that of iron from Australia and Brazil. The volume of exports from Australia, according to the government’s forecast, can grow from 851 million tons this year to 885 million tons in 2018 and 897 million tons in 2019.

While China consumes more iron ore, there are fears that an increase in the production of low-cost products in Brazil and Australia could eventually exceed demand, which will lead to lower prices. The ore reserves stored in the ports of mainland China have grown to unprecedented levels this year.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicts that prices will go down and amount to an average of $ 47 per ton next year. Citigroup Inc. also predicts a decline in prices, and Capital Economics Ltd. expects a price of $ 50 by the end of this year.