Chinese iron ore prices have certainly been on a roller coaster ride this year, hitting a record high in value terms after a period in which the price had risen and fallen sharply.

Futures on the Dalian exchange for delivery in January 2022 are now trading at RMB 777 per ton. That compares with about RMB 1,221 in May. However, prices are on the rise again, with futures climbing 50% in just the last three weeks.

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Complicated iron ore dynamics

 

bulk cargo iron ore

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The market is facing all kinds of contrarian dynamics.

On the one hand, steel production is rising in many provinces following power and environmental shutdowns over the summer.

On the other hand, debt-laden property group Evergrande is just the (admittedly very large) tip of the iceberg that is the Chinese property market. That is a market Beijing is clearly intending to curb and bend to its will.

While arguably overdue, the fact remains, construction absorbs some 25% of Chinese steel production. A slowdown in the sector will have a profound impact on Chinese domestic steel demand.

Price uncertainty

Huge uncertainty surrounds where prices are likely to go.

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This morning in metals news: job openings and new hires fell in August, the Census Bureau reported; steel producers in the U.K. are warning of an energy-related crisis; and, lastly, Liberty Steel received a £50 million boost that it says will preserve about 660 jobs.

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Job opening, hires slump in August

manufacturing worker

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Both job openings and hires declined in August, the Census Bureau reported today.

Job openings fell to 10.4 million as of the last business day of August. Meanwhile, hires decreased to 6.3 million.

U.K. steel sector sounds alarm over energy prices

As MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns covered in a series of posts last week, energy prices are a mounting concern all over the world.

The U.K. steel sector is warning that rising energy costs could become a crisis for the industry. Surging costs for natural gas and other commodities threaten the continuity of their operations, they argue.

“These extortionate prices are forcing some UK steelmakers to suspend their operations during periods when the cost of energy is quoted in the thousands per megawatt hour; last year, prices were roughly £50 per megawatt hour,” UK Steel Director General Gareth Stace said last month. “Even with the global steel market as buoyant as it is, these eye-watering prices are making it impossible to profitably make steel at certain times of the day and night.”

Reuters reported UK Steel is asking the British government for help, saying that without aid the consequences for the industry will be “dire.”

Liberty Steel says £50M will preserve 660 jobs

Lastly, sticking with the U.K., embattled steelmaker Liberty Steel says an infusion of £50 million will help preserve 660 jobs at Rotherham, the BBC reported.

The £50 million injection comes as part of parent group GFG Alliance’s restructuring following the collapse of its primary backer, Greensill Capital.

“GFG will inject £50 million of new funding into LIBERTY Steel UK (LSUK) to enable the restart of LSUK’s core Rotherham electric arc furnace,” GFG said in a release. “The provision of funding will set the platform to refinance LSUK operations in full, create a leading long-term GREENSTEEL hub, and support the RTC’s work of creating a profitable, restructured and focused business.”

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