Iron ore prices firm up above $200 a tonne

(Image of Fortescue’s stockyard, Port Hedland, courtesy of Fortescue Metals).

Iron ore prices jumped on Friday to the highest in more than three weeks as a rebound in steel inventory in top producer China suggested that the country’s mills continue to operate at a brisk pace and supply remains constrained.

The most-traded September iron ore contract on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange ended daytime trading 5.9% higher at 1,247 yuan ($195) a tonne, after touching its highest since May 19, and was set for a second consecutive weekly rise. The Platts 62% Fe benchmark averaged $205.70 a tonne CFR in May and stood at $217 a tonne on June 10.

“Iron ore futures extended gains as sentiment remained buoyed by signs of strong demand in China,” ANZ senior commodity strategist Daniel Hynes told Reuters.

China’s iron ore port inventory hit a four-month low last week, while weekly shipment arrivals fell

Stocks at 184 Chinese steel mills covered by Mysteel consultancy’s weekly survey stood at just over 6 million tonnes as of Wednesday, up 2.7% from last week partly due to increased output, it said.

Concerns over tight global iron ore supply also supported prices. China’s iron ore port inventory hit a four-month low last week, while weekly shipment arrivals fell.

Adding to supply concerns, Brazil’s Vale SA halted production at two mines and decommissioned a dam over safety concerns.

“This could further delay the recovery in iron ore output in Brazil,” Hynes said.

Iron ore exports from top producers improved in May, but Rio Tinto and Vale will need to lift run rates over the second half of 2021 to meet their sales guidance, S&P Global Platts wrote in a research note.

According to S&P data, shipments from Rio Tinto, BHP, Vale, Fortescue Metals Group and Roy Hill, and Saldanha port in South Africa, reached 99.4 million tonnes in May, the highest level so far this year, up 7.8% month on month and a 3% increase year on year.

Vale said its iron ore production would be 315 million-335 million tonnes in 2021.

“Over January-May, Vale exported iron ore at an annualized run rate of 251.7 million tonnes, indicating it is far off meeting guidance and taking into account it sells around 25 million tonnes of iron ore into the Brazilian market,” said S&P Global Platts.

($1 = 6.3885 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(With files from Reuters)

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