Iron ore shipments in triple digits again
China's iron ore imports rose in January even as steel mills are idled as part of a government drive against pollution and stockpiles at ports reached new peaks above 150m tonnes.
China consumes more than two-thirds of the seaborne iron ore market and produces as much steel as the rest of the world combined.
Iron ore is up 7% since the beginning of the month as it continues to rally from lows in the $50s struck in June last year
Beijing's winter war on smog has concentrated on the country's steelmaking hubs near the capital where mandated cuts came into effect in October. Chinese steelmakers are increasingly seeking out high-quality imports over domestic ore in anticipation of restart of production in mid-March.
Imports of high-quality iron ore fines and lump ore from Australia, Brazil and South Africa jumped 19% from December to just above 100m tonnes last month. Cargoes reached a record high of 102.8m in September last year.
Total shipments for 2017 topped record imports in 2016 of just over 1 billion tonnes.
The Steel Index benchmark price for Northern China 62% Fe ore climbed for the fifth straight session on Friday to trade at $77.85 a tonne, up 7% since the beginning of the month as it continues to rally from lows in the $50s struck in June last year.