* Strong domestic prices helped curb China steel exports
* China January-August iron ore imports up 9.3 percent
* China's imports of coal, oil jump in August vs July levels
* Monthly arrivals of copper, iron ore, soybeans, copper
(Recasts, adds comments, details)
By Manolo Serapio Jr
Sept 8 China's steel exports fell to the lowest
in six months in August amid stronger domestic prices, offering
relief to rivals overseas angered by a flood of cheap Chinese
But the global reprieve could be temporary as Chinese steel
producers could easily boost exports to ship surplus output amid
gradual efforts to address its chronic overcapacity.
Elsewhere, China's August trade data on Thursday showed
higher imports of crude oil and coal, while arrivals of copper,
iron ore and soybeans eased.
China's overall imports unexpectedly rose for the first time
in nearly two years, suggesting domestic demand may be picking
up and putting the world's second-largest economy on a more
Exports of steel products from China, a sore topic with
global trade partners, fell to 9.01 million tonnes in August
from 10.3 million tonnes in July, data from the General
Administration of Customs showed.
It marked a second month of lower exports and the volume was
the smallest since February's 8.11 million tonnes. However,
shipments over the first eight months were still up 6.3 percent
from a year ago at 76.35 million tonnes.
"It's a welcome development but there's still a long way to
go in terms of Chinese exports falling sharply because of their
massive excess capacity and export tax rebate policy," Roberto
Cola, vice president of the ASEAN Iron and Steel Council, said.
China, with an estimated excess capacity of around 300
million tonnes - thrice the 2015 output of No. 2-ranked Japan -
has said it will continue its tax rebates to steel exporters as
it tries to finance a costly capacity closure plan.
The fall in exports indicates the difficulties faced by
Chinese steel producers amid anti-dumping tariffs imposed by
other countries such as the United States and India, said Cola.
But Richard Lu, analyst at CRU consultancy in Beijing, said
the drop was in response to firm domestic prices, rather than
China giving in to the pressure from the rest of the world.
"We may see exports flat month-on-month or perhaps post a
slight uptick in September because domestic prices may still
rise because of seasonal buying as well as some restocking,"
Chinese steel prices have risen 20 percent from
late May due to low inventory levels and slower output from
mills, some of which have been ordered shut by Beijing.
As of July, China had achieved 47 percent of its target to
cut steel capacity by 45 million tonnes this year.
G20 leaders at this week's meeting in China have pledged to
address excess steel capacity that has punished the global
industry with low prices for years.
CRUDE, COAL IMPORTS SPIKE
Among China's imports in August, crude oil arrivals rose to
32.85 million tonnes, the second-highest on record, as a drop in
prices spurred buying, while coal purchases jumped 25 percent
"Seasonal demand peak and consistently rising domestic
prices since start of this year, and the government's supply
side restrictions all contributed to the higher (coal) imports,"
said a Beijing-based senior coal trader.
Imports of some other commodities slipped, with iron ore
arrivals falling to 87.72 million tonnes, from 88.40 million
tonnes in July - the second-highest monthly volume on record.
China's soybean imports fell 1.2 percent in August from the
month before, with buyers slowing shipments as they waited for
the release of beans from state reserves.
Copper arrivals fell to the lowest in one year on slow
seasonal demand and higher domestic output of refined metal.
"I don't think we'll see any meaningful pickup in imports
into year-end. Overall the copper market is still well supplied
and Chinese (end-user) demand growth is still in a downward
trend," said Amy Li, economist at National Australia Bank in
(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr in MANILA; Editing by Himani