Despite the surprise 8.5% slide in Chinese imports in May the country’s imports of iron ore and coal rebounded in May.
Iron ore imports had fallen to 18 month lows in April as disruptions to output in Brazil and Australia restricted shipments, forcing Chinese steel mills to run down stockpiles – which in turn supported a surge in prices to more than $Us100 a tonne.
Imported iron ore stocks at Chinese ports have fallen to 124.9 million tonnes, the lowest since February 2017, according to Reuters.
China imported 83.75 million tonnes of iron ore last month, up 3.7% from April but down 11% from May 2018, according the country’s General Administration of Customs’ trade data on Monday.
For the first five months of the year, China imported 423.92 million tonnes of iron ore, down 5.2% on the same period in 2018, continuing a trend that dominated iron ore imports in 2018.
Chinese steel output rose to a record level in April, pushing iron ore futures prices in China to record levels in late May. May’s steel production data is due out on Friday.
At the same time coal imports hit their highest level since January with a rise of 8.6% to 27.47 million tonnes from a year earlier as power utilities boosted purchases ahead of peak summer demand.
The May shipments were the highest since January’s 33.5 million tonnes. Imports for the first five months of 2019 jumped 5.6% to 127 million tonnes.
Reuters reported that while coking coal prices have remained high, the price of thermal (steaming) coal has fallen to $US65.25 a tonne at the end of May, down more than a third since the highs of 2018.