UTC+8 ( BJT)

WEEKLY: Chinese mills say ‘pass’ to more iron ore


Chinese trading of imported iron ore cooled down over the past week, in marked contrast to the frenzy of business over the previous week in response to the emergency production curbs on steelmakers across much of northern China. The ebbing of activity further undermined imported iron ore prices.
Over March 4-8, the daily trading volume of imported iron ore inventories at major Chinese ports reversed down by 211,000 tonnes/day on week to 817,000 t/d on average. At the same time, the daily trading volume of seaborne cargoes plummeted by more than half, dropping by 167,000 t/d on week to 155,000 t/d on average.

Last Friday, Mysteel’s price index for 62% Australian fines seaborne cargoes lost more ground, dipping by $1.25/dmt on week to $85.4/dmt CFR Qingdao. In parallel, Mysteel’s port inventories price index for the 62% Australian fines, easing by Yuan 11/wmt ($1.6/wmt) on week Yuan 628/wmt FOT Qingdao and including 16% VAT.

“In Tangshan and Wu’an (in North China’s Hebei province), the emergency curbs on steel mills’ sintering operations hardened over the past week due to poor air quality,” a Shanghai-based market watcher recalled. “This largely dampened these mills’ iron ore buying interest, especially for port inventories.”

Over March 1-7, the daily discharge rate at Caofeidian and Jingtang – two ports under the jurisdiction of Tangshan city – reversed down by 85,000 t/d on week to 515,000 t/d, a low level only experienced recently during Chinese New Year over February 4-8, according to Mysteel’s latest data released on March 8.

The same lacklustre iron ore trading was also seen in East China, where some mills in cities along the Yangtze River in Jiangsu also faced restrictions on their sintering production beginning March 5, Mysteel noted.

As for the performance of different iron ore products, some iron ore traders in East China’s Shandong province were willing to lower their offering prices for higher-grade iron ore such as Carajas Fines to encourage sales. “The traders have a bearish outlook for such ore for the near future because currently, there have been no big improvement in their finished steel margins,” the market watcher also said.

Thus, lower-grade iron ore such as Super Special Fines, FMG Blend Fines, Jimblebar fines, Royhill Fines and lumps were still the Chinese steelmakers’ preferred buy, with the rices of these ores being firm.

On March 8, Mysteel’s FOT price of 56.5% Super Special fines at Qingdao port in East China’s Shandong province, for example, was at Yuan 518/wmt ($77/wmt), higher by Yuan 5/wmt on week, while the price of 61.5% PB fines at the same port had receded by Yuan 11/wmt on week to Yuan 621/wmt, both including 16% VAT.

Over the past week, Chinese domestic steel prices continued to fluctuate, with Mysteel’s national price for the HRB400 20mm dia rebar finally reaching Yuan 4,032/t including the 16% VAT as of March 8, only up by Yuan 23/t on week.

Written by Victoria Zou, zyongjia@mysteel.com
Edited by Russ McCulloch, russ.mcculloch@mysteel.com