RPT-COLUMN-China's iron ore imports stay robust, may delay price retreat: Russell
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By Clyde Russell
LAUNCESTON, Australia, Sept 19 (Reuters) - There is an almost universal expectation that iron ore prices will start to retreat soon, reversing some of the 29 percent surge this year that has seen the steel-making ingredient become one of the unexpected commodity top performers.
Much of iron ore's gains in 2016 have been driven by strong demand from China, with imports up 9.3 percent to 669.65 million tonnes in the first eight months of the year from a year ago.
And as yet, there is no sign that China's appetite for imported iron ore is waning, with vessel-tracking and port data suggesting September will be another strong month for the buyer of about two-thirds of global seaborne cargoes.
Data compiled by Thomson Reuters Supply Chain and Commodity Forecasts estimates that 94.4 million tonnes will arrive at Chinese ports by the end of the month.
If the final number is close to the estimate, it would make September's imports the second-highest on record, and the strongest so far this year.
It's worth noting that the ship-tracking data doesn't exactly tally with official Chinese customs data because of variability around when cargoes are discharged and when they are booked as having been offloaded for customs purposes. There are also differences in the estimated volumes carried by vessels.
For the first eight months of the 2016, the ship-tracking data showed iron ore imports as 3.3 percent below the official customs numbers. Continuación...