Iron ore price

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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An iron ore squeeze

It’s an eye-popping iron ore table today: So, the exuberance of last week finally seized parts of the steel complex with 12 month swaps hitting the proverbial afterburners. Up 9.1% on the day! And who said there’s no speculation in the iron ore markets? Spot followed with a solid climb: Needless to say, with the


Iron ore price stabilising?

It’s all good today! Not much movement overnight in the steel complex but enough to suggest that the big falls are behind us. 12 month swaps are starting to price with some consistency in the mid $90s range: There is also clearly a lift in broader sentiment as Draghi applies his band-aid and although it


Macro Investor: Shorting iron ore

Iron ore prices (as measured by 62% fines) have fallen over 50% from their peak at almost $200 per tonne, after doubling twice from early 2009. This dynamic is due to collapsing demand, as inventories in China climb to new heights amid increasing volume output from Chinese, Australia, African and Brazilian suppliers. …Due to the


Steel glut versus more trains

Steel industry in China is now known to be unprofitable.  Profit margins are close to nothing, while production capacity is high.  Meanwhile, banks have to roll over their debts, apparently, to keep them alive.  However, production has not really slowed down much despite clearly slowing demand.  Worse still, and interestingly (although not surprisingly), we learned yesterday that the steel


Iron ore volumes showing the pain?

Yesterday Port Hedland released its August shipping statistics including iron ore tonnages, which looked like this: Not bad but closer inspection throws up a few worries. August tends to be a down month but this year the fall is 9.3% versus half that in the previous two years. Volumes tend to be highest mid year


The iron ore dominoes

By David Llewellyn-Smith First up, yesterday’s iron ore price moves, which are not pretty: So, a new low for spot, 12 month swaps rolling over and Chinese steel prices still weakening. Complimenting the price action, the international interest in iron ore ramped up again last night with more bearish analyses.  The first story of interest


Iron ore exploration expenditure explodes

By Leith van Onselen The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released Mineral & Petroleum Exploration data, which revealed a slight easing in exploration expenditure after last release’s record. Nationally, expenditure on minerals exploration fell -$76.7 million in the June half, with petroleum exploration expenditure also falling by -$157.7 million (see below chart). Expected mineral and


China’s steel PMI crashes

China’s non manufacturing PMI is out today. Before we get to the headline index let’s look at the steel sector sub-component: A couple of points. Clearly output consolidation has begun. New orders look bleak but exports are slowing a little less rapidly. Inventories of goods and inputs (ore and coal) are both running down sharply.


The long term price of iron ore

Here is today’s iron ore update: Hints of stabilisation on Friday but it’s still anyone’s guess if this is the bottom. I’m pretty skeptical so long as Chinese steel prices are still falling. Meanwhile my views on iron ore have been perfectly captured in a note by Ric Deverell, the widely respected head of commodities at


FT takes an axe to our China assumptions

Last night, Kate Mackenzie of FTAlphaville single-handedly did what the entire government, financial markets and media of Australia have failed to do. She used reason to consider a wider framework for future Chinese growth paths than the mantra of steel intensity and urbanisation forever that has come to define Australia’s elite. Under a new series