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Chinese Demand for Iron Ore Points Lower

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July 9, 2012

Port Headland, image: BHP Billiton

SYDNEY (Dow Jones) –Iron ore exports from Australia’s Port Hedland in June slipped 4.4% from May to 21.5 million metric tons, but were 16% higher from 18.6 million tons in June 2011 as the port’s capacity has increased, the Port Hedland Port Authority said Monday.

One of the world’s largest export terminals and the biggest bulk export port for iron ore, Port Hedland, in the north of Western Australia state, is BHP Billiton Ltd.’s (BHP) main iron ore port in the country. Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. (FMG.AU) and Atlas Iron Ltd. (AGO.AU) also ship from it.

Billions of Australian dollars are being spent in expanding the port, as miners ramp up production from the resource-rich Pilbara region.

However, Oscar Tarneberg, a senior analyst at The Steel Index, said there may be hurdles ahead. “Shipments of iron ore from Australia continue at high rates…[but] demand indicators from China again point to a slowdown in the world’s largest consumer of iron ore” last month, he said.

HSBC‘s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index for June pointed to an eighth straight month of activity decline in Chinese factories, while construction indicators also signal waning demand.

Top importer China is the main destination for ore from the port. The authority said 16.1 million tons–or 75% of the total shipped volume in June–were destined for China. About 12%, or 2.5 million tons, was headed for Japan and 9%, or 1.9 million tons, was headed for South Korea.

Chinese imports, which showed a surprising uptick in May, are expected to remain at elevated in June, analysts said. China’s Customs Department is expected to release preliminary trade data for June Tuesday.

– Rhiannon Hoyle, Dow Jones Newswires

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