Spot iron ore prices were headed for a fifth weekly fall in six after swooping to their lowest in almost a year, underlining concerns over rising supply in top buyer China. China’s imports of the steelmaking raw material climbed 5.5 percent in May from a six-month low in April. While some analysts say that reflected firm Chinese demand, that would also add to a rising mountain of stocks at Chinese ports as steel demand slows during the summer lull. “Fears of oversupply negated the strong rise in China’s imports,” ANZ analysts said in a note. Open interest – or open contracts – in Chinese iron ore futures surged to a record on Thursday as prices fell further. Iron ore for delivery to China’s Qingdao port <.IO62-CNO=MB> slipped 0.1 percent to $55.36 a tonne on Thursday, the lowest since July 2016, according to Metal Bulletin. The spot benchmark, which touched $94.86 in February, has lost more than 4 percent for the week so far.
On Friday, the most-traded iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange was down 1.5 percent at 423 yuan ($62) a tonne by 0201 GMT. It was also down for a fifth week in six. Open interest in Dalian iron ore futures reached an all- time high of 2.7 million lots on Thursday when the most-active contract fell 2 percent. Open interest in Chinese futures had been rising as prices retreated, and traders and analysts were looking at further price declines as memories fade of the commodity’s stunning recovery in 2016. “Seaborne supply just keeps coming to Chinese ports and you see the inventory level rising,” said Wang Di, an analyst at CRU consultancy in Beijing. But she added that “while inventory at ports is very high, inventory at mills is relatively low.”
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Stockpiles of the raw material at China’s ports stood at 136.55 million tonnes last week, near the highest level since 2004, according to data tracked by SteelHome. The most-active rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange rose 0.8 percent to 2,995 yuan a tonne, but on track for a second weekly drop.