Iron Ore Seen Weak by CISA as Goldman Says Steel Use Waning

Iron ore demand in China, the world’s largest buyer of the steel-making raw material, is expected to remain weak as steel demand in the second-biggest economy contracts, according to the China Iron & Steel Association.

As China’s steel demand drops this year, cuts to output will increase, reducing demand for iron ore, the group said in a monthly statement on Tuesday that summarized trends in a local price index. Iron ore prices won’t rebound as the oversupply will persist, according to the association’s website statement.

Iron ore sank below $50 a metric ton last week on concern surging low-cost supply from the largest miners including BHP Billiton Ltd. will boost a global surplus just as demand in China falters. Li Xinchuang, the association’s deputy secretary-general, told a conference in Perth, Australia, in March that steel consumption in China has peaked and output will shrink this year. Policy makers in China cut interest rates last month to spur growth and followed with an easing of property rules.

“In April, it’s expected that China’s growth measures will have a more obvious effect,” the association said. “This may improve steel demand and production, though not significantly. Demand for iron ore will remain weak.”

Ore with 62 percent content at Qingdao was at $48.06 a dry ton on Tuesday, according to Metal Bulletin Ltd. Prices tumbled to $47.08 on April 2, the lowest since 2005, based on daily and weekly data from Metal Bulletin and annual benchmarks compiled by Clarkson Plc, the world’s largest shipbroker, for ore delivered to China. Prices fell 33 percent this year after losing 47 percent in 2014.

Demand Contracts

China’s apparent steel demand fell about 5 percent in the past six months from a year earlier, the biggest drop since the global financial crisis, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a report on April 6. The bank is increasingly concerned about the signal sent by the weakness in Chinese steel demand for commodity consumption, according to the report, which cited a lack of growth in property starts and focused on implications for copper, used in pipes and wiring.

While iron ore exports to China from Australia’s Port Hedland rose 3.2 percent to 31.2 million tons in March from February, average daily shipments fell to 1 million tons from a record 1.08 million tons in February, according to Bloomberg calculations based on port authority data. China buys about two-thirds of seaborne iron ore, supplementing local output.

BHP’s Outlook

BHP Billiton will continue to add to supply for at least two years, The Australian newspaper reported last week, citing Jimmy Wilson, the Melbourne-based company’s head of iron ore. The decline in prices below $50 a ton is part of a normal commodity cycle, Wilson was cited as saying.

Rio Tinto Group and BHP are boosting output to cut unit costs and retain market share, increasing pressure on higher-cost suppliers within China and overseas. Australia’s Atlas Iron Ltd. voluntarily suspended its shares from trade in Sydney on Tuesday to review operations after iron ore’s plunge.

The extent and pace of the decline in prices as well as the uncertain outlook prompted the company to undertake the review, Atlas said in a statement. The Perth-based company’s stock lost 88 percent of its market value over the past 12 months.

Seaborne supply will exceed demand by 55 million tons this year, rising to 184 million tons in 2018, according to Morgan Stanley. The world’s biggest mining companies will add 310 million tons of output through 2017, Deutsche Bank said on March 31, forecasting that iron ore will drop below $40.

— With assistance by Jasmine Ng, and Alfred Cang

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