iron ore price

Liquid Molten Steel IndustryOne Australian miner is requesting Chinese steel mills pay a premium for its highest grade iron ore, a move that experts say will revive the once dormant pricing war.

According to a report from Reuters, Rio Tinto is the world’s No. 2 iron ore miner and demand from Chinese steel producers was at a six-year high when the annual pricing system collapsed. Iron ore supply issues are expected to reignite tensions between miners and mills over pricing.

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“The steel market is so hot this year and they think it’s something that buyers can accept,” an anonymous source told Reuters. “If Rio gets it, other miners may follow.”

It is reported that Rio is looking for up to $1 per ton more than the index price for its Pilbara iron ore product on long-term contracts from Chinese mills for the year ahead. Rio was previously selling iron ore at a premium exclusively to traders.

Steel Prices on the Rise in Asia

Our own Stuart Burns recently wrote that the Asian market has seen steel prices rise due to much of the same dynamic that has pushed steel prices higher domestically. These movements suggest the trend will remain up for the remainder of the year.

How will steel and base metals fare for the remainder of 2016 and into 2017? You can find a more in-depth copper price forecast and outlook in our brand new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report. For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

 

Rio Tinto has cut its guidance for iron ore shipments and U.S. consumer confidence unexpectedly fell this month.

Rio Tinto Cuts Back Iron Ore Guidance

Global miner Rio Tinto on Thursday cut its 2016 guidance for iron ore shipments by as much as 5 million metric tons after releasing lower third-quarter production data, citing shipping interruptions.

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The downward revision — equivalent to as much as $290 million at current ore prices — comes as the steelmaking commodity stages a recovery on the back of a surprise lift in demand from China.

U.S. Consumer Confidence Falls

Consumer confidence unexpectedly fell to a one-year low in October as Americans soured on the outlook for the economy amid a contentious presidential election campaign.

The University of Michigan preliminary index of sentiment declined to 87.9 from 91.2 in September, according to a report Friday. That was weaker than the lowest estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Long-term inflation expectations declined to a record low.

There appears to be an almost universal expectation that iron ore prices will start to retreat soon, after surging some 62% through April. They have since eased back but are still up 28% on the year.

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Without doubt, much of iron ore’s gains in 2016 have been driven by strong demand from China, with imports up 9.3% to 669.65 million metric tons in the first eight months of the year from a year ago. But prices in Qingdao lost 5.8% in the seven sessions through Wednesday. That was the longest run of daily declines since March and while steel output remains robust, questions are again being asked how much longer prices can remain north of $55 per mt as yet more supply comes on stream. According to the MetalMiner index, finished steel prices have eased this month.

Iron Ore Output

You would expect the miners to refute this and, sure enough, in a Bloomberg report, Vale SA and Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. said that the impact of the new output won’t be as severe as expected and will see the $50 per mt level holding, but banking analysts are not so sure with Westpac saying last month rising supply will drive prices below last year’s lowest point of $38.30, while Citigroup expects an average of $45/mt next year. Read more

India will complete the second phase of its mining auctions later this month, after the first round last year received a lukewarm response. Going under the hammer will be gold, diamond and iron ore mines.

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Mines in five provinces — Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand — will be auctioned. This time, there are 14 iron ore mines, 12 blocks of limestone and one block each of gold, diamond and copper. While some analysts have predicted a better response than last time to the iron ore mining auction, the limestone blocks may not see much action because of the cement market slump.

Round One

In the first round of the auction, the states offered 47 mines bearing minerals such as gold, iron ore, bauxite and limestone.

They were able to auction seven mines in that phase, earning the government billions of dollars over the next 50 years. However, 17 blocks were not sold due to an insufficient number of initial bids on account of factors such as quantity and grade of ore and low quality of the mineralization studies, among other reasons.

The first round also came under scrutiny when the comptroller and auditor general of India (CAG), a body that audits all government expenditures, passed certain adverse observations. It said in a report tabled in the Indian Parliament that competition may have been restricted in the auction of 11 coal blocks on account of multiple bids by corporate groups made through joint ventures or subsidiaries.

What Does This Mean For India’s Steel Exports?

The iron ore auction comes at a time when the Indian government is contemplating a relaxation of export duties on iron ore. This has led to protests from the domestic steel industry.

In a representation to the steel ministry, the Indian Steel Association asked the government to continue with a 30% export duty on all grades of ore, to preserve natural resources for domestic use.

The government already cut the export duty on low-grade fines to 10% earlier this year but continued with a 30% levy on lumps.

Two-Month Trial: Metal Buying Outlook

India’s ore production is lagging its growth of steel production. Production, according to steel ministry data, fell at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.5% in the past five years.

US construction spending rose in July to the highest level in over 7 years as private construction outlays surged, providing another sign of solid economic momentum at the start of the third quarter.

Construction spending increased 0.7% to $1.08 trillion, the highest level since May 2008, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday. June’s outlays were revised up to show a 0.7% increase instead of the previously reported 0.1% gain.

Meanwhile, the monthly Construction MMI® – tracking the key industrial metals used in the construction sector – registered a value of 69 in September, a decrease of 4.2% from 72 in August, another all-time low.

Construction_Chart_September-2015_FNL

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Construction spending has increased for 8 straight months. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast construction outlays rising 0.6% in July. Construction spending was up 13.7% compared to July of last year.

Chinese Oversupply

Still, no matter how much the US construction sector booms – both residential and non-residential construction are hitting multiyear highs – prices are staying low mostly due to oversupply and a sharp decline in Chinese demand.

China Construction Bank Corp., the nation’s second-largest lender, reported zero profit growth and rising bad loans as the government struggles to prop up the economy.

Net income for the three months ending June 30 was 64.9 billion yuan ($10 billion), unchanged from a year earlier, based on an exchange filing on Sunday. That was below Bloomberg analysts’ expectations.

After the stock market crash there last week, China’s economy is still in freefall and it’s unlikely that the world’s second-largest economy can be counted on to restore its falling construction activity in the short term. Beijing is, rather, doubling down on export stimulus policies, such as devaluing their own currency, and tacitly encouraging overproduction of base metals at home. This actually increases oversupply and hinders supply-demand equilibrium.

Export destinations such as the US and now Mexico are responding, as one would think, with anti-dumping investigations and tariffs but price relief in most of those cases is still far off.

Here in the US, construction spending in July was buoyed by a 1.3% jump in private construction spending to the highest level since April 2008. Spending on private non-residential construction projects surged 1.5% to the highest level since October 2008.

What This Means for Metal Buyers in Construction

Until oversupply, particularly from China, of construction products such as rebar and H-beam steel is dealt with, it is unlikely that prices will reverse course and rise soon.

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This Month’s Prices and Trends

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The monthly Raw Steels MMI® registered a value of 52 in September, a decrease of 5.4% from 55 in August.

Raw-Steels__September-2015In July, it seemed like steel prices were stabilizing for awhile, but prices fell again last month. The decline wasn’t as bad as it could have been, considering that last month China’s stock market sell-off continued and some industrial metals took serious hits.

The bearish commodity environment makes it hard to pick a bottom, proving once again that buying on weakness hasn’t been the best strategy for metal buyers during this market cycle.

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The Real Steel Story

Fundamentally, the steel story is similar to other base metals and can be summarized as: a glut of raw materials everywhere and weak demand unable to keep the market in balance, with China being the main driver on both sides of the equation.

With imports into the US still high, it’s no wonder that US steelmakers keep fighting against the flood of imports. In August, new anti-dumping petitions were filled for HRC and CRC products. The petitioners are the usual group of US producers that have long said that foreign steel imports are subsidized by overseas governments in complete violation of US anti-dumping law. When it comes to price direction, we don’t see these anti-dumping petitions having that much impact.

Demand Side Drivers… Of Cars

The demand picture is mixed and not encouraging:

The car industry seems strong in the US with August numbers showing that it is on track to record one of its best sales years since 2000. On the other hand, the latest Chinese automotive numbers turned out to be even weaker than expected. Chinese auto sales fell by 7.10% in July 2015 compared to July 2014, the largest fall since February 2013.

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While construction activity is strong in the US and Europe, emerging markets and China continue to drag down prices and overproduction of materials for export is actually exacerbating oversupply.

Crude oil fell again in August, with prices sliding as low as $38/barrel. Low energy prices will continue to hurt the energy industry, therefore lowering demand for steel.

What This Means For Metal Buyers

Prices remain weak and it seems clear that there is little going on in the market that could push steel prices up this year. Placing long-term purchases while markets keep falling is not a good strategy. With prices declining at a fast pace, it’s very important for steel buyers to keep an eye on the market and be ready when market sentiment shifts.

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The monthly Raw Steels MMI® registered a value of 55 in August, a decrease of 1.8% from 56 in July.

Raw-Steels_Chart_August-2015_FNL

After Chinese steel prices slumped in July, they fell again in August but were at least more stable. Domestic prices remain low but seem to be stabilizing as well, resulting in our raw steels index dropping by less than 2%. That’s a moral victory for steel these days.

Paring the Decline

This was definitely a small decline compared to what we have seen from other industrial metals last month. Aluminum and copper hit 6-year lows. Not only was July a bad month for base metals, it was also bad for any commodity. Gold and oil prices fell 7% and 22%, respectively. With all these declines, the Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index hit new lows last month.

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Apart from this macro commodity weakness, the fundamentals within the steel industry don’t look much better. Chinese demand seems to be getting worse. Construction data shows that demand from the sector has slowed during this first half. Also, the automotive sector is weakening with vehicle sales falling year-on-year for several months.

Weak Overseas Demand Creates More Imports

On top of the weak demand, a strong dollar has made exchange rates attractive for exporters. Export products raised almost 28% in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. The increase in exports keeps hurting US producers who last week filed petitions with the Commerce Dept. and the US International Trade Commission against 8 countries the domestic industry believes are receiving illegal government subsidies and “dumping” flat cold-rolled coil products here.

3 Best Practices for Buying Commodities

It seems clear that there is little going on in the market that could push steel prices up this year. But this is not about what could make steel prices rise, the question is more like: When will the market think prices have fallen enough? So far, we haven’t seen a shift in market sentiment but that is something that steel buyers might want to pay attention to. Until that happens, it seems risky to buy forward when everything is falling.

Actual Raw Steels Prices

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The Raw Steels MMI® collects and weights 13 global steel and raw material price points to provide a unique view into global steel price trends over a 30-day period. For more information on the Raw Steels MMI®, how it’s calculated or how your company can use the index, please drop us a note at: info (at) agmetalminer (dot) com.

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The Construction MMI® fell again in July, despite strong US non-residential construction and accelerating growth in Europe.

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Metals and energy commodities, such as oil and liquid natural gas, continue to fall on international indexes mostly due to the weak economy and lax demand in China, the world’s second-largest economy. The recent volatility in Chinese stock markets shows no sign of abating.

Construction_Chart_August_2015_FNL

The private Caixin/Markit manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for China dropped to 47.8 in July from 49.4 in the previous month.

Chinese Economy Still Falling

It is worse than a preliminary reading of 48.2 and is the fifth consecutive month of contraction in the sector. With falling demand in such a large market, it is difficult to foresee a turnaround in the metals that make up our index. The Construction MMI® registered a value of 72 in August, a decrease of 2.7% from 74 in July.

While construction activity is strong in the US and Europe, emerging markets and China continue to drag down prices and overproduction of materials for export is actually exacerbating oversupply.

Try Not to Catch Falling Knives

The oversupply in aluminum, in particular, is worsening. Alcoa, Inc., recently raised its forecast for the global aluminum surplus, expecting a surplus of 760,000 metric tons this year which is almost double Alcoa’s previous forecast.

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It remains a good time to be a buyer with double-digit declines in fuel surcharges and lower prices across the board for all construction products including rebar and H beams tracked in the index. With the price of oil back below $50 a barrel we are likely to continue to see falling US fuel surcharges and lower cost transportation and shipping charges.

Construction purchasing in the US is now a waiting game as estimators and project executives questions become some version of “how long do I wait before buying” to achieve a truly low price before markets bottom out, rather than how quickly to purchase to avoid non-existent price spikes.

The Construction MMI® collects and weights 9 metal price points used within the construction industry to provide a unique view into construction industry price trends over a 30-day period. For more information on the Construction MMI®, how it’s calculated or how your company can use the index, please drop us a note at: info (at) agmetalminer (dot) com.

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While domestic prices remained stable in June, Chinese steel prices plunged with its stock market. Also, the non-liquid London Metal Exchange steel billet contract fell sharply, weighing on our index.

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The monthly Raw Steels MMI® registered a value of 56 in July, a decrease of 5.1% from 59 in June.

Raw-Steels_Chart_July-2015_FNL

Chinese Market Reeling

Chinese steel prices are at their lowest level in more than 20 years. Chinese demand seems to be getting worse and industry analysts point out that the fall might not even be close to an end. This threatens the survival of smaller Chinese steelmakers, who are still reluctant to cut production in order to maintain cash flow and bank credit, while other small mills have already shut down.

Construction data shows that demand from the sector has slowed during this first half. Moreover, China’s demand for steel could take a further hit as construction eases over the summer.

Finally, China’s recent stock market turmoil is adding more doubts about its economy. This is definitely not good for steel prices and other industrial metals which we’ve seen falling sharply this month.

What This Means For Metal Buyers

Domestic prices have sort of stabilized over the past couple of months. However, the sharp decline of Chinese steel prices could keep putting pressure on US prices, especially under the bearish commodity environment we are in.

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The Raw Steels MMI® collects and weights 13 global steel and raw material price points to provide a unique view into global steel price trends over a 30-day period. For more information on the Raw Steels MMI®, how it’s calculated or how your company can use the index, please drop us a note at: info (at) agmetalminer (dot) com.

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Our construction metals index fell slightly this month despite strong US housing demand and generally good employment numbers.

The monthly Construction MMI® registered a value of 74 in July, a decrease of 1.3% from 75 in June.

Construction_Chart_July_2015_FNL

The drop was mainly driven by hefty price hits to Chinese rebar and H-beam steel – yet the dip was spared from going lower by a more than 10% spike in the US shredded scrap price.

The construction sector neither lost nor gained jobs in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Commerce Department said permits to build new homes surged 12% in April to an annual rate of 1.275 million, the highest since August 2007. Permits for apartment construction were the breakout leader, while permits for single-family homes, a much broader segment, still rose modestly.

Homebuilders Bullish

Confidence among US homebuilders, as measured by the National Association of Home Builders’ index, rose to its highest level in 9 months in June, so all signs point to a strong building season domestically.

Meanwhile, the developing world isn’t exactly holding its part of the construction spending deal up. A recent World Bank report detailed how China’s state-run banking sector is creating debt while not delivering on the construction stimulus promises Beijing has made. With Brazil still mired in recession and Russian construction limited to heavy pipeline work, the BRICS countries are not developing at the rates they earlier envisioned.

Oil & Gas Demand Up

Demand for oil and gas products such as steel tubes has rebounded domestically as the US passed Russia this month as the world’s top natural gas producer. Baker Hughes reported that the rig count for US oil producers increased for the first time this year, despite massive output by Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries trying to undercut US producers’ prices. It was the first weekly increase in 30 weeks.

Actual Construction Material Prices

Construction purchasing remains on the cusp of what could be a breakout, but both lending and a shortage of skilled labor remain major concerns.

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The price of Chinese rebar fell 7.4% to $341.39 per metric ton. At $368.77 per metric ton, Chinese H-beam steel was down 6.9% for the month. Weekly US Midwest bar fuel surcharge prices fell 4.6% to $0.30 per mile after rising the previous month. After rising the previous month, weekly US Gulf Coast bar fuel surcharge prices dropped 4.3% to $0.30 per mile. A 3.8% drop over the past month left Chinese aluminum bar at $2,134 per metric ton. Weekly US Rocky Mountain bar fuel surcharge prices fell 3.6% to $0.31 per mile after rising the previous month. After rising the previous month, European 1050 aluminum prices dropped 0.4% to $2,907 per metric ton.

The price of US shredded scrap rose 10.2% over the past month to $280.00 per short ton.

Last month was consistent for the Chinese low price of 62% Australian iron ore fines, which did not move from $77.30 per dry metric ton.

This September: SMU Steel Summit 2015

The Construction MMI® collects and weights 9 metal price points used within the construction industry to provide a unique view into construction industry price trends over a 30-day period. For more information on the Construction MMI®, how it’s calculated or how your company can use the index, please drop us a note at: info (at) agmetalminer (dot) com.

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