Iron Ore Revival Snuffed Out as ‘Weakest Commodity’ Drops Again

Updated on
  • ‘Traders absolutely don’t wish to hold it,’ Huatai’s Xu says
  • Shanghai Cifco sees signs traders may be ‘dumping’ holdings

China's Iron Ore Demand Has Been Slowing

Iron ore’s attempt at a rebound lasted just a few short hours as investor concern over robust supplies, including near-record port stockpiles, and speculation some traders in China were rushing to offload holdings combined to snuff out the brief gain.

In Singapore, SGX AsiaClear futures fell 2.1 percent to $59.70 a metric ton, overturning an earlier climb of as much as 2.7 percent. In China, the most-active contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange pared a 5 percent jump to close just 1.1 percent higher. Benchmark spot prices tumbled toward $60 a dry ton.

The commodity plunged into a bear market last month amid concern low-cost mine supplies will go on rising just as China’s mills enter a weaker period for demand and policy makers in Asia’s top economy move to rein in leverage. With stockpiles at mainland ports still near unprecedented levels, Shanghai Cifco Futures Co. said in a note on Monday signs are now emerging that traders are dumping their holdings, with some transactions done at low prices.

“Iron ore currently holds the title of being the weakest commodity product,” Xu Huimin, an analyst at Huatai Futures Co. in Shanghai, said by email on Monday. “Traders absolutely don’t wish to hold it. I guess pressure from the arrivals of future shipments is too great.”

Spot ore with 62 percent content in Qingdao lost 2.6 percent to $60.15 a dry ton, the lowest level since Oct. 24, according to Metal Bulletin Ltd. Prices have sunk 37 percent since hitting $94.86 in February, the highest since 2014.

Trade figures from China on Monday showed a mixed picture. While the nation imported less ore in April, it’s still purchased the most ever over the first four months. In April, purchases were 82.23 million tons, lower than in March and also weaker than the same month in 2016. In the January-to-April period, imports expanded 8.6 percent to 353 million tons, according to customs data.

Largest Buyer

Port inventories have risen for the past two weeks to stand at 131.95 million tons, according to Shanghai Steelhome E-Commerce Co. That’s near the record 132.5 million tons in March, and up from about 100 million a year ago. China is the largest buyer, accounting for about two-thirds of global cargoes.

Steel cargoes from China are on the wane, according to the customs data. Exports shrank to 6.49 million tons last month from 7.56 million in March and 9.08 million a year ago, official figures showed. Total exports in the first four months have fallen 26 percent from last year.

Miners’ shares declined on Monday along with iron ore. In London, Rio, BHP and Anglo American Plc all fell more than 2 percent.

(An earlier version of this story corrected iron ore’s drop from a February peak in the fifth paragraph.)

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