Iron ore price leaps to highest since 2011

Image: Tangshan Iron and Steel Group byjunrong /

Iron ore prices leaped to more than nine-year highs on Friday amid trading spikes and a frenzy for the steelmaking ingredient in China, which the country’s steelmakers have called  “unreasonable” and “abnormal.”

According to Fastmarkets MB, benchmark 62% Fe fines imported into Northern China (CFR Qingdao) were changing hands for $164.39 a tonne on Friday, up nearly 4% from Thursday’s peg.

Iron ore is now trading at the highest level since October 2011 and is up 78% in 2020.  

On the Dalian Commodities Exchange, futures prices hit a new all-time high on Friday, shooting up more than 6% to 1,076 yuan. The contract was launched in 2013.

China forges more steel than the rest of the world combined and is set to break records with iron ore imports – primarily from Australia and Brazil – increasing to above one billion tonnes this year.

Below is a list, in chronological order, of key milestones in the recent rally and steps taken to try to calm the market, compiled by Reuters:

* Dec. 2 : Brazilian iron ore miner Vale cut its 2020 output outlook, adding fuel to rising iron ore prices.

* Dec. 3: China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange (DCE) imposes limits on single-day open positions for the May 2021 iron ore contract as prices power towards 900 yuan ($138) per tonne.

* Dec. 4: The DCE reminds members to trade rationally and step up risk-prevention measures after iron ore futures hit a record 974 yuan per tonne.

* Dec. 9: Goldman Sachs raises its iron ore price forecast for 2021 to $120 per tonne from $90, citing strong Chinese steel production and recovering demand in the West. These sentiments are echoed by Australian miner Fortescue Metals Group.

On the same day, the DCE further restricts single-day open positions on its most active iron ore contract and adjusts speculative margin requirements.

* Dec. 10: The world’s biggest iron ore export hub, Port Hedland in Australia, starts clearing large vessels out of the port after a cyclone warning. BHP Group later assures the China Iron & Steel Association (CISA) its monthly shipment volumes won’t be affected.

On the same day, CISA holds a symposium with major steelmakers in China, who call on regulators to investigate the spike in iron ore prices and crack down on any wrongdoing.

* Dec. 11: The most-traded DCE iron ore futures break above 1,000 yuan per tonne for the first time, hitting a record 1,042 yuan.

* Dec. 12: The DCE proposes regularly adjusting premiums and discounts for iron ore futures and adding deliverable brands, following complaints from steel producers that speculators are fuelling the rally.

* Dec. 14: China’s market regulator publishes new standards for steel scrap, giving mills greater access to an alternative raw material to iron ore even after a ban on solid waste imports from end-2020. The new standards were developed in just a year, versus the usual processing time of several years.

* Dec. 16: CISA holds a video call with Rio Tinto after learning the miner has been making continuous high-price iron ore transactions. Rio Tinto says it is willing to work with consumers to review the iron ore pricing mechanism.

* Dec. 18: The DCE adjusts transaction fees for its iron ore futures, effective the Dec. 22 trading day, after the most active contract closes up 6.2%, having struck a new record high of 1,076.50 yuan.

(With files from Reuters)