* Oct iron ore imports 92.86 mln T vs 99.36 mln T in Sept
* Jan-Oct imports at 877.18 mln T
By Min Zhang and Emily Chow
BEIJING/SHANGHAI, Nov 8 (Reuters) - China’s iron ore imports in October fell for the first time in four months, customs data showed on Friday, as shrinking profit margins reduced demand for the raw material at steel mills.
Arrivals of iron ore, a key steelmaking raw material, were at 92.86 million tonnes last month, according to data from the General Administration of Customs. That was down 6.5% from 99.36 million tonnes in September but up from 88.40 million tonnes brought in a year earlier.
For the first ten months of the year, the world’s top iron ore consumer brought in 877.18 million tonnes, down from 891.48 million tonnes in the same period last year.
The drop in imports occurred as profits have plunged at steel firms on high costs for items ranging from raw materials to environmental protection measures.
“Clearly its still been impacted by the mine closures in Brazil, overall we are nowhere near back to full capacity so this resulted in weaker imports into China. On a monthly basis, we saw a decline which suggests that we’ve still got some issues around demand as well,” said Daniel Hynes, Senior Commodity Strategist at ANZ.
“Steel mill margins were weak over the past few weeks, which no doubt weighed on demand from the steel sector itself.”
Some steel traders have turned to increasing imports of semi-finished or finished steel products from other countries over the past few months at favourable prices also reducing demand for iron ore.
Inventories of imported iron ore at Chinese ports climbed to 125.55 million tonnes by the end of September, rising slightly from a 125.25 million tonnes at the end of previous month, according to data compiled by SteelHome consultancy. (Reporting by Min Zhang and Emily Chow; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)