Iron Ore’s Near-Doubling Shows Reversal From Loser to LeaderBy
Prices bolstered by demand in China, spillover from clampdown
Curbs on coal futures are seen diverting funds, ANZ says
There’s just no stopping iron ore. Benchmark prices are on their way to doubling as concern eases about a slowdown in China, and steps by exchanges in the world’s top buyer to curb spikes in other commodities including coal and steel lure funds into the raw material.
Ore with 62 percent content delivered to Qingdao rallied to $74.12 a dry metric ton on Thursday, the highest level since November 2014, after gaining 94 percent from December’s low, according to Metal Bulletin Ltd. In Asia, SGX AsiaClear futures are up 98 percent since their closing low the same month, while the contract on the Dalian exchange has now more than doubled.
Iron ore’s turnabout in 2016 -- driven by a credit-fueled property rebound in China, as well as a surge in trading on local futures markets -- has caught many analysts forecasting a fourth year of losses off guard. While supply is still expected to increase from the top miners, the outlook for demand has stabilized as Asia’s biggest economy is on track to meet growth targets. The recent rally in coal, coke and steel on Chinese exchanges led authorities to take action, including raising trading charges, drawing funds into iron ore.
Iron ore has jumped “as recent curbs on coal futures trading were seen diverting funds back into the steel-making commodity,” Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. said in a note on Thursday. The raw material retreated 39 percent last year after sinking 47 percent in 2014.
While iron ore’s recent gains have come in tandem with a surge in metals driven by optimism on demand after Donald Trump’s victory, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. noted the U.S. remained a small player in bulk-commodity markets. “The U.S. share of bulk-commodity demand remains low however and a large stimulus would be required to move the needle globally,” it said in a note.
Fortescue Metals Group Ltd.’s Nev Power was more optimistic about the possible implications of the Republican’s surprise victory in the race for the White House. “Just imagine if the U.S. was growing as strongly as China, what a phenomenal increase in demand that would mean for resources, commodities and jobs,” the chief executive officer of the world’s No. 4 iron ore shipper said in an interview Thursday in Melbourne.
The upsurge in prices has helped to revive miners’ shares. Fortescue stock has more than tripled in Sydney this year, while Rio Tinto Group rallied 30 percent and BHP Billiton Ltd. gained 37 percent. The trio are Australia’s largest iron ore exporters. Brazil’s Vale SA has more than doubled in 2016.
China is once again trying to restrain commodity traders following soaring prices of coal to rubber, about six months after the government stepped in to deflate a speculative bubble. The Shanghai Futures Exchange urged investors to trade rationally as it raised fees for steel and rubber futures this week. The Dalian bourse hiked charges for coking coal and coke.
The Metal Bulletin iron ore benchmark has rallied 70 percent in 2016 and prices are headed for a fourth quarterly gain. Its jump far exceeds the 8 percent advance in the Bloomberg Commodity Index this year as well as the rise posted by that gauge’s best performer, zinc.
— With assistance by David Stringer