UTC+8 ( BJT)

WEEKLY: China iron ore prices soften on weak demand


China's prices of imported iron ore for both port inventories and seaborne cargoes softened over October 18-22 from the late September rally after demand from domestic steelmakers gradually weakened again, according to market sources.

As of October 22, Mysteel SEADEX 62% Australian Fines had dipped by $4/dmt on week to $120.65/dmt CFR Qingdao. By the same day, Mysteel PORTDEX 62% Australian Fines in Qingdao had also declined by Yuan 40/wmt ($6.3/wmt) on week to Yuan 855/wmt FOT and including 13% VAT.


"Over the past week, iron ore demand - especially for fines products - continued to be disrupted in (North China's) Tangshan," a market watcher based in the city commented. "Many local steelmakers needed to halt their sintering operations during the night hours in line with local government requirements, and their iron ore deliveries from ports were also restricted," he explained.


Consequently, iron ore trading over the past week was rather sluggish, though demand for products such as lumps and pellets - used as substitutes for sintered ore - was relatively firm, the market watcher also noted.


In other areas, iron ore demand from steelmakers generally showed no improvement as most mills had earlier replenished their stocks to normal levels, while they still needed to observe previous production curbs, Mysteel Global noted from other market sources.


Over October 15-21, blast furnace capacity utilization among the 247 Chinese steel mills under Mysteel's tracking reversed down from a two-week incline, edging lower by 0.61 percentage point on week to 80.05% on average.


Meanwhile, overall market sentiment was also subdued, affected by the slump in domestic steel prices from the lacklustre steel demand, Mysteel Global observed.


As of October 22, China's national price of HRB400E 20mm dia rebar under Mysteel's assessment had slumped to a one-month low of Yuan 5,586/tonne including the 13% VAT, or down for the second week by another Yuan 295/t.


By the end of last week, iron ore supply at Chinese ports, however, had continued to grow. By October 21, the total inventories of imported iron ore at China's 45 major ports under Mysteel's survey had climbed for the fourth week by another 1.1% on week to 140.5 million tonnes, a new high since April 19 2019. And by the same day, there were still 202 vessels queuing at these ports for unloading, though the number was lower by six on week.


Written by Victoria Zou, zyongjia@mysteel.com

Edited by Russ McCulloch, russ.mcculloch@mysteel.com