The Port Hedland Port Authority released its export statistics for September which will be reported cautiously as a "decline", although volumes remain exceptionally high on a historical basis.
29.8 million tonnes of iron ore was shipped to China in the month, which is indeed a little below the record 32 million tonnes shipped in August (although if I remember my childhood mnemonic rhymes correctly fewer days hath September than hath August).
There was something on an increase in iron ore shipped to Korea, Japan, within Australia and Singapore in the month.
In terms of what this might indicate for Australia's quarterly national accounts, total iron ore cargo tonnage shipped in the quarter from Port Hedland was more than 5 percent greater than in the preceding quarter, continuing the strong uptrend.
However, iron ore exports doubtless achieved a significantly lower price this quarter than they did in Q2. Port Hedland also exports relatively immaterial quantities of other minerals, but commodity prices are generally weak.
As you can see from the above chart, in previous years the iron ore spot price has rebounded through October as it did in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 (it didn't rebound in 2011 as prices were still cascading lower from their bubble peak).
Although the Australian dollar has now declined, iron ore prices have been trounced by around 40 percent in 2014, while on a quarterly basis tonnages exported are about 30 percent higher than the prior year.
The players at the big end of town including BHP Billiton (BHP) and Rio Tinto (RIO) may be expecting that lower prices could shake out some of the marginal producers, as I looked at briefly here.
Depending upon which source of data you take, China's mills appear to remain relatively well stocked with finished product steel, implying that demand could remain weaker and any iron ore price rebound in 2014 could be more muted than the exporters hope.
A Bloomberg survey of economists expects China's economy to grow by 7.3 percent this year, which is a little lower than the preceding survey which called for a 7.4 percent expansion.