Iron ore price rises on China stimulus pledge

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Iron ore prices rose on Tuesday, as China’s pledge to provide more support for its flagging economy lifted sentiment, while expectations of a possible steel output cap at the top consumer strengthened steel prices.

According to Fastmarkets MB, benchmark 62% Fe fines imported into Northern China were changing hands for $117.09 a tonne Tuesday morning, up 2.36%.

The most-traded September iron ore on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange ended midday trade 1.4% higher at 856.5 yuan ($119.87) per metric ton. The contract earlier hit 859.5 yuan, its highest since July 2021.

China’s top leaders pledged on Monday to step up policy support for the economy amid a tortuous post-covid recovery, focusing on boosting domestic demand, signalling more stimulus steps.

Earlier, China’s state planner unveiled measures to support private investment and transform underdeveloped areas in megacities.

The pro-growth shift in tone related to property and local government debt was the main takeaway, Macquarie Group Ltd. economists Larry Hu and Yuxiao Zhang said in a note.

The lack of a “bazooka-like stimulus package” wasn’t surprising, given the Politburo meeting isn’t typically the venue for announcements of specific measures, and authorities have made it clear they like to roll out policy in a piecemeal way, they said. 

The Politburo meeting made it clear the leadership feels more work needs to be done to get the recovery on track, Julian Evans-Pritchard, head of China economics at Capital Economics, said in a note.

The absence of any major announcements or policy specifics does suggest a lack of urgency or that officials are struggling to come up with suitable measures, which is “not particularly reassuring for the near-term outlook,” he said.

China stocks jumped at the open on Tuesday, with property developers rallying after a sharp sell-off in the previous session, as top policymakers said they would step up support for the embattled sector.

Steel prices also found some support from market talks that some mills in eastern and northern China have received verbal notice to keep steel output no higher than 2022 levels.

(With files from Reuters and Bloomberg)

($1 = 7.1451 yuan)