Brazil-China ore trade slows; Australian sales steady

SEOUL, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Spot iron ore vessel bookings from Brazil to China slowed in the first half of August after July’s record shipments made up for reduced supply from Australia to keep up record purchase rates by the world’s biggest iron ore buyer.

Shipments from Brazil, China’s second-largest iron ore supplier after Australia, stood at 5 so far this month, down sharply from a record 39 last month and an average of around 20 in the year’s first half, according to data specialist AXSMarine.

Vessel bookings from Australia’s main iron ore ports to China stood at 15 so far this month, versus an average of 40 in the second quarter and 31 in July.

Trade between Australia and China has steadily picked up since late last month from a collapse in early July when China detained four Shanghai-based iron ore employees of Rio Tinto over spy allegations and some Australian sellers suspended spot sales.

Despite calls from its industry association to rein in speculative iron ore trades, China’s ore imports jumped 32 percent in July from a year ago to 58 million tonnes to feed record high steel production, undermining the country’s efforts to win a better price deal than its Asian rivals.

China made its first official iron ore term deal with upstart Australian miner Fortescue Metals Group FMG.AX on Monday in exchange for up to $6 billion in funding, hoping the deal would set the benchmark reference price in fraught and prolonged annual negotiations with major miners which turned to diplomatic uproar after the spying charges. [ID:nSP480759]

For a graphic on China's iron ore imports, click here

For a graphic on China's vessel booking fixtures, click here (Reporting by Miyoung Kim; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)