This is already around 12.2% higher than the total volume cleared in January last year.

A total of 1.99 million tonnes of the contract were traded last month, up 4.6% from December 2018 when it was launched.

In the whole of 2019, close to 20 million tonnes of the contract, which is settled against Fastmarkets’ daily index for iron ore 65% Fe Brazil-origin fines, cfr Qingdao, changed hands.

The index averaged $96.10 per tonne in November and $102.71 per tonne in December. It is averaging at $106.28 per tonne so far this month.

Market participants have attributed the price increase for high-grade fines to stronger demand for such products among Chinese steelmakers.

Mills typically look to consume more high-grade iron ore to improve efficiency during the winter heating season amid steelmaking curbs imposed by local authorities to lower emissions.

Traders have also attributed the price strength for high-grade fines to a 26% year-on-year drop in Brazilian iron ore exports last month.

A Singapore-based trader have cited heavy rainfall as the cause of the lower exports from Brazil.

Sources say these factors, coupled with restocking demand in China ahead of a week-long break for the Chinese New Year in late January, are keeping this segment of the iron ore market supported.