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* March iron ore imports rise 15 percent on year
* Traders and mills take cargoes amid sharp fall in prices
* First-quarter iron ore imports jump 19 pct on year
By Ruby Lian and Fayen Wong
SHANGHAI, April 10 China's iron ore imports
rebounded in March from a 13-month low hit the previous month,
customs data showed on Thursday, boosted by rising steel
production, increasing supplies of overseas iron ore and a drop
The world's largest iron ore consumer increased imports of
the steelmaking raw material to 73.96 million tonnes, up 21
percent from 61.24 million tonnes in February, the lowest since
February 2013, data showed. Imports were nearly 15 percent
higher than a year ago, according to Reuters' calculations.
First-quarter imports surged 19.4 percent to 222 million
tonnes from the same period of last year. Shipments hit a record
high of 86.82 million tonnes in January, as steelmakers
anticipated a pick-up in demand after the new year.
Traders and mills snapped up cargoes last month after prices
.IO62-CNI=SI fell to $104.70 in mid-March, the lowest since
Expected seasonal demand growth has also encouraged mills to
raise production modestly since late February, boosting appetite
for the raw material.
"This is taking advantage of lower prices, a chance to
restock at good levels and the China story continues," said
Jonathan Barratt, head of Barratts' Bulletin in Sydney. "I think
the desired effect that they had was to see prices lower so they
could scoop up."
Global miners such as Rio Tinto and BHP
Billiton have been forging ahead with expansion
plans, despite a slowing Chinese economy, and boosted shipments
of the commodity to their biggest customer.
Iron ore exports to China from Australia's Port Hedland,
which accounts for about a fifth of the globally traded market,
jumped 27 percent in March from February to 27 million tonnes.
(Additional reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr in SINGAPORE;
Editing by Richard Pullin)