Iron ore has lost 40% in 3 months and is now back below $60 a tonne

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Iron ore spot markets were hammered yet again on Friday, falling heavily ahead of a long weekend in China.

According to Metal Bulletin, the spot price for benchmark 62% fines tumbled 3.87% to $57.91, leaving it at the lowest level since October 14 last year.

As seen in the daily chart below, the recent price action in the benchmark has been nothing short of ugly, sliding by a massive 39% from the multi-year high of $94.86 a tonne struck on February 21 this year.

In the past four sessions alone it has lost 8.4%.

However, while the benchmark price was hammered, along with higher grades to a lesser degree, that wasn’t the case for lower grades on Friday — they actually rose.

Metal Bulletin said the spot price for 58% fines increased by 1.9% to $39.75 a tonne, although that only partially recovered the losses recorded earlier in the week.

The divergent price action across the various grades could have been due to an impending long weekend in China, something that Metal Bulletin said saw trading volumes across steel and iron ore markets thin substantially.

“China‚Äôs spot rebar prices moved down further amid thin trading on Friday,” it said.

“Futures fluctuated in the morning, falling to a low of around 3,190 yuan per tonne, which resulted in bearish sentiment in the spot market. Traders chased after volumes by reducing their prices, but buyers refused to bite, having suspended procurement.”

While reduced trading volumes may have contributed to the weakness seen in higher grade ores on Friday, continued growth in Chinese iron ore port inventories may have also been a factor behind the latest price plunge.

According to data from Shanghai Steelhome, inventory levels rose by a further 600,000 tonnes to 136 million tonnes, the highest level on record.

From the recent cyclical low of 79.35 million tonnes reported in late June 2015, port inventories have now ballooned by over 72%, or 57.25 million tonnes.

With Chinese markets closed on Monday and Tuesday for the Dragon Boat Festival Holiday, whether the slide in prices will be sustained won’t be known until Chinese futures resume trade on Wednesday.

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