BEIJING, Dec 10 (Reuters) - China's November iron ore imports rose 17 percent from the previous month to their highest in almost two years, according to customs data issued on Monday, as steel mills stocked up on the steelmaking raw material due to higher profit margins.
Imports were 65.78 million tonnes in November, their highest since January 2011. Total imports in the first 11 months of the year were 672.9 million tonnes, up 8 percent compared to the same year-ago period.
Iron ore spot prices have started to rebound since October, with benchmark 62-percent grade iron ore rising 15 percent in October.
Steel mills increased bookings in October on concerns about a further hike in iron ore prices, and improving profits have also encouraged them to buy more of the raw material.
China's steel mills produced an average of 1.9599 million tonnes of steel a day over the Nov. 21-30 period, up 0.4 percent over the previous 10 days, industry data showed last week.
Chinese steel output normally tails off as winter approaches and construction activity in northern regions slows, but it has remained at relatively high levels throughout November.
The customs data also showed that China exported 5.13 million tonnes of steel products in November, up 6 percent from the previous month. Total imports for the first 11 months up to 51 million tonnes, a 13 percent increase on the same year-ago period.
China Iron and Steel Association vice-secretary general Chi Jingdong said last week that Chinese steel firms needed to turn increasingly to the export market if they were to address chronic over capacity problems at home.
(Reporting by David Stanway and Ruby Lian; editing by Miral Fahmy) Keywords: CHINA TRADE/IRONORE
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