RPT-China May iron ore imports fall amid high prices, demand remains stable

(Repeats Sunday item, no change to text)

* May iron ore imports at 87.03 mln T vs 95.71 mln T in April

* Jan-May imports at 445.31 mln T vs 423.92 mln T year earlier Iron ore shipments to China expected to increase - analyst

BEIJING, June 7 (Reuters) - China’s iron ore imports in May fell 9% from April but were higher than same period a year ago supported by stable shipments and robust steelmaking demand, though rising prices may have curbed some purchases.

The world’s top steel producer imported 87.03 million tonnes of iron ore last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Sunday. That compared with 95.71 million tonnes imported in April and was up 3.9% from May 2019.

For the first five months of the year, arrivals of the steelmaking raw material were 445.31 million tonnes,up 5.1% on the same period in 2019, according to the customs data.

Chinese steel mills are ramping up production as the country tries to restore its economic output after the novel coronavirus epidemic and catch up with delayed projects.

Iron ore inventories at China’s ports fell to 109.5 million tonnes as of May 29, the lowest since November 2016, according to SteelHome consultancy.

Spot iron ore prices have risen more than $100 per tonne. The most-traded September contract of iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange surged 23.3% last month.

“Mills are slowing purchases amid the surging prices and on watch for market situations,” Tang Chuanlin, analyst with CITIC Securities said before the data was released, adding that shipments were expected to rise obviously in the coming three months based on vessel-tracking data.

Brazil’s Vale SA expects its iron ore shipments to China, which were at 190 million tonnes in 2019, to increase this year due to falling demand in other countries.

The Sunday customs data also showed that steel product exports in the January-May period fell 14% year-on-year to 25 million tonnes. (Reporting by Min Zhang and Tom Daly Editing by Robert Birsel)

Nuestros Estándares: Los principios Thomson Reuters.