Iron ore price in free fall
The Northern China import price of 62% Fe content ore slumped again on Monday to trade down 3.7% at $64.60 per dry metric tonne according to data supplied by The Steel Index.
It’s the lowest price since November 3 last year and brings the pullback over the past month to over 30%.
Chinese GDP figures released on Monday showed an economy growing at a faster than expected pace of 6.9% on the back of a surge in fixed investment, particularly in the construction sector. While steel output growth in top consumer China has underpinned prices, the market has become fixated on additional supply growth and stockpiles at record highs.
According to Umetal’s survey of the 42 largest ports in China, the total iron ore inventory now top 133 million tonnes, the highest ever. Elevated stocks have not dampened importer enthusiasm however with total imports for the first quarter climbing 12% to 271 million tonnes after the second highest cargo volumes recorded in March of 95.6m tonnes.
New supply worries
Noted iron ore bull, Nev Power, CEO of world number four producer Fortescue Metals Group, said last week the pullback in the price should be expected:
“I don’t think anybody should be surprised to see the iron ore price come back to more sustainable levels,” Mr Power said.
“I think we will see the iron ore price to return to where you’d expect it to be based on the supply curve, which is around that $60 to $65 per tonne mark historically,” he said.
Others are more pessimistic, FocusEconomics in its April survey of analysts and institutions shows a median forecast price of iron ore of $57 a tonne during the final quarter of this year. For Q4 2018, analysts expect prices to moderate further to average $54 over the three month period.
Dutch bank ABN Amro is the most optimistic calling for a $75 average towards the end of 2017 while London-based Investec sees an average of $71.50 over the course of this year. Year to date iron ore is averaging $83.60.
BMO Capital Markets see prices correcting sharply from today’s levels to average $45 by the start of 2018 while Oxford Economics expects iron ore to average $72 this year but correct sharply to $51 in 2018.
According to estimates from Rio Tinto, world number two producer, 296m tonnes of additional seaborne supply have entered the market in the last three years.
The Melbourne-based diversified giant forecasts supply growth to slow but a combined 100m tonnes from the world’s top six producers are expected to be added to supply this year (40m tonnes) and next.
It’s not only low-cost miners from Brazil and Australia that are clouding the outlook, but domestic Chinese supply which have fallen by 140m tonnes from its peak to around 260m per year, are now making a comeback Rio Tinto said last month.