3 Mar 2010 08:04

China's iron ore imports may hit all-time high in March - analyst

By Xu Hong

Shanghai. March 3. INTERFAX-CHINA - Domestic iron ore imports are expected to exceed 60 million tons in March, which would be a new monthly high, an analyst told Interfax on March 3.

"China's iron ore imports stood at 46.62 million tons in January, a relatively low figure, because a large number of domestic steel mills conducted maintenance work during this period, which depressed market demand for raw materials. Then, in February, many steel mills slowed operations due to the Chinese New Year holidays. Therefore, I expect that iron ore imports will be pushed up this month and exceed the 60 million tons recorded in December 2009," analyst Hu Kai from Umetal told Interfax.

However, an analyst from Mysteel Information, who wished to remain anonymous, told Interfax that China's imports of iron ore in March may only reach around 50 million tons, while imports of iron ore in the whole of 2010 may reach 678 million tons, up 8 percent year-on-year.

"Iron ore imports in March are mostly the deliveries from orders made by domestic steel mills in January and February, as it normally takes 40 days for deliveries to arrive from Brazil and 20 days for those from Australia. I believe that iron ore imports will increase in March compared with the past two months, but not to such an excessive leap above 60 million tons, as domestic steel mills made a limited number of iron ore orders," he said.

Meanwhile, domestic steel mills are only just resuming raw material purchases after the Chinese New Year holiday, and steel product stockpiles remain high at present. Plus, the price of imported iron ore is high as well, which will impinge any large purchases, he added.

According to Mysteel Information, the average reference CIF (cost, insurance and freight) price for Indian iron ore grading 63.5 percent stood at $140 per ton on March 2.

The Mysteel analyst also said that the global iron ore giants might intend to tighten iron ore supplies as the 2010 annually contracted iron ore price talks continue, which will also restrict iron ore imports.