Iron ore prices for November 30, 2019: Spot down. Paper up. Steel struggling. Steel PMI trashed. Let’s look more closely at the latter: As a single industry PMI, the steel survey is much more volatile than any sector wide version. Nonetheless, it is a good guide to pivot points and trend changes. The key number
Iron ore price, steel price and futures published daily
The contemporary seaborne iron ore price first emerged in 2003 when the Chinese development model shifted up a gear. Indian suppliers broke free of an annual contract pricing system that had been dominated by Australia, Brazil and Japan for decades.
As Chinese demand surged, traditional supply and pricing mechanisms could not keep pace. Indian miners in Goa and Karnataka had surplus supply and filled China’s marginal new needs outside the old benchmarking system.
But it still wasn’t enough and other non-traditional suppliers began to emerge in South America and Africa. These needed more dynamic pricing mechanisms and by 2008 Platts, Metal Bulletin and The Steel Index were publishing a daily iron ore price.
As the Chinese demand surge continued, by 2007, major Australian iron ore miners were charging enormous premiums to prices from five years earlier. The annual benchmarking system began to strain to the point breaking, including significant diplomatic tensions between Australia and China. This culminated in a proposed merger of BHP and RIO Tinto which triggered panic in Beijing as it feared an already supply-constrained market and soaring iron ore price would by made worse by monopoly pricing. The Chinese SOE, Chinalco, moved the buy a blocking stake in RIO Tinto.
However, the GFC intervened and deflated tensions as Chinese demand collapsed. But Chinese steel mills found themselves still tied to very high prices and an annual iron ore price benchmark that did not reflect the new reality. Many defaulted on cargoes and walked away from deals.
To fight the downturn, China unleashed an enormous fiscal and monetary stimulus that soon had China building more than ever. The demand for iron ore rocketed to all new highs. With the memory of contract defaults fresh in their minds, major Australian miners, led by BHP and CEO Marius Kloppers, abandoned the annual benchmarks, forcing Chinese steel mills to adopt a short term iron ore price using spot and quarterly contracts. Brazil joined in in 2010.
The spot iron ore price soared to all new highs and triggered a global wave of new supply from producers such as Fortescue Metals Group, Ferrexpo, Kumba Iron Ore, Anglo American and Sino Iron.
With the rise of the short term iron ore price market, iron ore derivative markets grew. First in the Singapore on the SGX and later in China as the Dalian Commodities Exchange and the United States at Chicago Commodities Exchange (CME). Iron ore derivatives could hedge and future price iron ore output.
These last developments coincided with the peak in the China boom and prices began to fall from 2012. After peaking above $190 per tonne, the iron ore price collapsed into the $30s in 2015 as new supply outstripped demand.
Ahead were still many years of oversupply, a lower iron ore price, consolidation and mine closures.
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Iron ore prices for November 27, 2018: Spot stabilised. Paper is still soft. Steel rebounded. Whether it is already over is in the lap of the gods, via Reuters: China’s steel production hit a record 82.55 million tonnes in October, but steel prices and margins have since shrunk as China dialed back on winter output
Iron ore prices for November 23, 2018: Spot routed. Paper following. Steel smashed. Yet rebar inventories are still down. It does not make complete sense. It looks like steel mills are overproducing and the steel price is sinking as a result. They are responding by destocking raw materials. All normal for this time of year.
Iron ore prices for November 21, 2018: Spot flat. Paper roared. Steel fell again as CISA early November output remains very high. This is killing mills’ margins. It should see a destock of raw materials and falling prices but iron ore now trades as the perfect counter to any Cold War 2.0 news on hopes of
Iron ore prices for November 16, 2018: Spot up. Paper down. Steel flat. Rebar stocks are crashing as Winter output shutdowns get underway. We should have already seen price draw downs by now. Whether they’ll still happen I have no idea. The next relatively certain period of material price action will be February when prices
Iron ore prices for November 13, 2018: Spot fell. Paper too. Steel held up. Late October CISA steel output came off sharply as it should with falling seasonal demand. Surely she’s going to break here. Demand is waning with questions over Chinese stimulus. Supply issues in Peru, Brazil and Pilbara are resolved. Mills are destocking
Via Westpac: Chinese steel, iron ore and coal Chinese environmental policies have boosted the demand for higher grades of iron ore but in the long run they may drive a structural shift in demand. Chinese mills are increasingly using scrap steel as its supply grows with more buildings being torn down, more cars crushed and
Iron ore price charts for November 9, 2018: Spot jumped. Paper fell. Steel firmed. BHP is back: “Rail operations recommenced last night with additional controls in place to ensure safe operations.” A regulatory investigation is ongoing, and controls on board the trains have been risk assessed. The investigation will attempt to understand what happened after
Spot was down sharply. Paper rallied overnight on BHP’s train wreck. Steel looks ready break down. Port Hedland shipments remain weak as miners find all manner of excuses to reduce volumes. They haven’t grown in 18 months. BHP has declared force majeur: BHP does not believe its stockpiles of iron ore at Port Hedland, in
Iron ore prices for November 6, 2018: Spot flat. Paper down. Steel down. Port stocks down to 141.65mt. We appear to be entering the Q4 correction now, delayed by stimulus hopes. They appear to be a little ahead of the curve given the PMIs: Infrastructure is being rolled out to offset industrial production. But only
Iron ore prices for November 5, 2018: Spot jumped. Paper too. Because this: A train loaded with iron ore and operated by BHP ran away without a driver for 57 miles (92km) before being forcibly derailed, the company and Australian authorities have said. On Monday, the world’s biggest miner suspended all Western Australian iron ore rail operations while
Iron ore prices for November 2, 2018: Spot down. Paper down more. Steel too. Rebar inventories fell sharply again last week in a normal seasonal pattern. They remain fine. What is interesting is that the moment markets have rallied on a possible trade deal between the US and China, iron ore has begun to correct.
Let me show you some whacky Chinese housing data from Gavekal. First, the price trend needs to correct: So, too, does inventory, which remains hilarious and starts are making it worse: As we know, macroprudential shut off tier one city price growth two years ago. Price growth has been all in the boondocks since: But
UBS wraps it up nicely for BHP: BHP has today announced that it will return the full US$10.4bn net proceeds from shale to shareholders almost immediately through a combination of an off-market buyback in Nov/Dec 18 (US$5.2bn) and a special dividend of US$5.2bn (~US$1.01ps) payable in January 2019. Further returns expected at the half year
Iron ore price for November 1, 2018: Spot down again. Paper and steel more. The Steel PMI actually held up well as building accelerates. There’s more of that ahead. We’re already seeing a big new infrastructure push. Property is an open question. They say it will reined but so far it’s the opposite. The downdraft
Iron ore price for October 31, 2018: Spot and paper flat. Steel down. CISA output for mid-October has begun the seasonal draw down. In news, it MOAR: “The leadership is paying great attention to the problems, and will be more preemptive and take action in a timely manner,” according to the statement Wednesday. The Politburo