Iron ore prices surge

Octavio Passos/Getty ImagesRiding the wave.
  • Iron ore prices surged on Thursday. The benchmark price for 62% fines logged its largest gain in a month.
  • The strength in iron ore markets followed a steep rebound in Chinese steel prices, helped by news of further steel production cuts in Tangshan, a major steel production hub in China.
  • Chinese steel and bulk commodity futures continued to surge in overnight trade on Thursday. The United States could introduce additional tariffs on Chinese imports worth $US200 billion as early as today

Iron ore spot markets surged on Thursday, logging the largest gain in a month.

And with steel and bulk commodity futures continuing to push higher, it looks like there’ll be further gains to come on Friday.

According to Metal Bulletin, the spot price for benchmark 62% fines jumped 2.4% to $68.39 a tonne, adding to the gains achieved in the previous two sessions.

Coincidentally, it was the largest percentage gain since August 6, leaving the benchmark at the highest level since August 13.

However, it remains stuck in the trading range seen since the late March.

Like the benchmark, both lower and higher grades rose on Thursday.

58% fines surged 2.3% to $38.64 a tonne. 65% fines increased by a smaller 0.8% to $95.90 a tonne.

The gains were put down to renewed strength in steel markets, sparked by news authorities in the Chinese city of Tangshan — the largest steel-making centre in the country — have extended production curbs on heady industry, including steel mills.

Previous cuts were set to expire on August 31, having run for six weeks, almost halving the production capacity on some sintering machines and blast furnaces in an attempt to improve air quality.

“The rally on iron ore prices is supported by higher steel prices,” a Shanghai-based iron ore trader told Reuters.

“The market is expected to see even fatter profit margins at mills amid stepped-up environmental measures. Therefore, steel mills would be willing to pay more for raw materials.”

While an extension to the production curbs undoubtedly helped to propel steel prices higher on Thursday, it doesn’t explain the price action in spot markets entirely with low and mid grades outperforming higher quality, more expensive grades.

Production curbs, of course, also raise the potential for less iron ore demand, particularly lower grade. But not on this occasion.

Underpinning the gains in spot markets, Chinese steel futures rallied hard during Thursday’s day session.

The January 2019 rebar contract jumped to 4,148 yuan, higher than Wednesday’s night session close of 4,103 yuan. Hot-rolled coil futures also bounced, closing at 4,140 yuan.

The strength in steel futures also bolstered bulk commodities traded in Dalian.

Iron ore futures surged to 502.5 yuan, above the 494 yuan level it closed the night session, while coke and coking coal climbed to 2,412.5 yuan and 1,283.5 yuan respectively.

As seen in the final scoreboard below, all contracts continued to grind higher in overnight trade on Thursday.

SHFE Rebar ¥4,234 , 2.69%
DCE Iron Ore ¥504.50 , 1.82%
DCE Coking Coal ¥1,287.50 , 1.66%
DCE Coke ¥2,435.00 , 1.52%

The strong gains point to the likelihood of further gains in spot markets on Friday.

However, given the United States could introduce additional tariffs on Chinese imports worth $US200 billion as early as today, whether the recent strength can continue remains debatable.

Vivek Dhar, Mining and Energy Commodities Analyst at the Commonwealth Bank, thinks if trade tensions do escalate, steel and bulk commodity prices will likely do well.

“Steel, iron ore and coal… are exposed heavily to China’s supply side reforms,” he says.

“These reforms include curbing pollution and reducing overcapacity, which is helping drive up prices, particularly for higher quality iron ore and coal.

“We believe these trends will continue if the US-China trade war deepens.”

Trade in Chinese commodity futures will resume at 11am AEST.

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