Purchases of iron ore expanded to 102.8 million tonnes in September from 93 million tonnes a year ago, surpassing the previous record of 96.3 million tonnes in December 2015, according to customs data on Friday. Over the first nine months, imports climbed 7.1 per cent to 817 million tonnes, putting full-year purchases on course to top 1 billion tonnes by a comfortable margin.
"High-grade ore is certainly gaining popularity," Dang Man, an analyst at brokerage Maike Futures Co, said via text message. "Seasonally, September is a strong month for imports as mills tend to stock up before winter. We think purchases will drop significantly in October as steelmakers cut output."
On Friday, futures in Singapore advanced as much as 6.2 per cent to $US62.20 a tonne. The benchmark spot price for 62 per cent content ore in Qingdao climbed 4.1 per cent, the most since August, to $US62.53 a tonne, according to Metal Bulletin Ltd.
Ore comes in different grades according to purity of content, and higher-quality shipments are more efficient for mills, enabling them to make more steel, and they also cause less pollution. BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company, said there's a "new reality" in the global iron ore market as a flight to quality boosts the premium users will pay for better material.
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