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* Monthly iron ore imports down 13 pct on a year ago
* Jan-Nov imports still up 13.4 pct on year earlier
* Iron ore prices seen staying at low levels
By Ruby Lian and Fayen Wong
SHANGHAI, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Chinese iron ore imports tumbled to their second-lowest this year, data showed on Monday, as steel mills and traders in the world’s top consumer held back on restocking amid expectations of further price falls.
Shipments to China slid 15.1 percent to 67.4 million tonnes in November from the previous month and were down 13.4 percent on a year earlier, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs.
The figure was the lowest since imports of 61.2 million tonnes in February, although total imports for the 11 months to November still rose 13.4 percent to 846 million tonnes from a year earlier.
China’s steel exports, however, surged to a record high in November of 9.72 million tonnes, up 13.7 percent from the previous month, as producers took advantage of lower prices to offset weakening domestic demand.
Slowing economic growth in China has hit demand growth for a raft of commodities including iron ore and steel. China’s imports fell unexpectedly in November while export growth slowed, adding to concerns the world’s second-largest economy could be facing a sharper slowdown.
Iron ore prices have been further dampened by surging output from Australia and Brazil, the world’s two biggest suppliers.
“As some steel mills have already built up stocks in October and prices have been falling, big traders have largely cut their buying, especially as they do not see any improvement in prices in a well-supplied market,” said Jin Tao, an analyst with Guotai Junan Futures in Shanghai.
“China’s steel production cutback during the APEC meeting in early November also hit consumption of iron ore. Imports are likely to stay at similar levels in December.”
A large number of of industrial facilities, including steel mills, were forced to shut down around the capital Beijing ahead of a meeting of global leaders in November.
Spot iron ore prices .IO62-CNI=SI fell 11 percent in November and have lost 47 percent so far this year in an oversupplied market.
Australian shipments of iron ore to China from Port Hedland, which handles about a fifth of the world’s seaborne trade, fell 8.5 percent in November to 29.0 million tonnes from a near-record high in October.
Stockpiles at main ports fell 550,000 tonnes to 102.61 million tonnes by last Friday from the previous week, data from Umetal.com showed. (Editing by Richard Pullin)