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China Steel Data Portends Slowdown?

In an email, Landsberg told the TheStreet, "That said, the stockpiles need to be monitored closely -- and could end up being an early sign of something more substantial brewing in China, but I don't think so.... I think the Chinese economy will continue to expand rapidly but we shall see."

Other observers of raw materials markets were also optimistic. "We've seen iron-ore pricing remain firm. That's a good indicator," says Anthony Rizzuto, the metals and mining equities analyst at Dahlman Rose in New York. The analyst said that the bump in stockpile amounts likely occurred as a kind of natural move by iron ore buyers ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday in China. He said that Chinese consumer demand remains strong, which will buttress steel production.

So far this earnings season, the biggest iron ore miners in the world have reported blockbuster profits, helped by the rising price of seaborne iron ore -- which itself was helped by a shift to short-term supply contracts between miners and global steelmakers last year.

Even the North American-focused iron-ore miner Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF) had a banner 2010, with its CEO predicting more good times this year.

Brazil's Vale (VALE) is slated to report 2010 results on Thursday, the last of the world's big three iron ore miners to release results, after Rio Tinto (RIO) and BHP Billiton (BHP).

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York P/>

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>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Scott Eden.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.
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