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Iron-ore woes deepen as inventories in China keep piling up

11th March 2024

By: Bloomberg

  

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Iron-ore slumped almost 5% — heading toward the $110 a ton mark — as disappointing demand in China left the market lumbered with bulging inventories.

The steelmaking material has tumbled by almost a quarter from a peak in early January as China’s real estate and manufacturing activity remained under pressure. The annual National People’s Congress in Beijing, which concludes Monday, offered few prospects of a demand boost, and iron ore stockpiles at ports have ballooned to their highest in a year.

Iron ore futures fell 4.6% to $110.55 a ton in Singapore as of 11:35 a.m. local time and were headed for the lowest close since August. Futures in Dalian dropped 3.7%, while steel contracts in Shanghai were also down.

“Prices will have to drop further for inventories to be withdrawn,” Jinrui Futures Co. said in a note. The broker suggested building short positions in iron ore before Chinese steel demand picks up.

Construction activity remains lackluster as China’s yearslong crackdown on property debt squeezed a vital source of steel demand, while Beijing has refrained from deploying the type of massive infrastructure stimulus that it has used to revive the economy in the past. There had been hopes for a stronger pick-up in construction after the Lunar New Year holiday that ended in mid-February, but that hasn’t eventuated.

Beijing reiterated its stance that homes are for residents to live in, and not for speculation over the weekend, keeping to its longstanding position even as a property crisis weighs on demand. This clarification came after Premier Li Qiang’s government work report draft omitted the slogan “housing is for living in, not speculation” for the first time since 2019.

Base metals were mixed on the London Metal Exchange. Aluminum rose 0.2% and copper was up 0.1%, while zinc was down 0.2% and nickel dropped 0.5%.

Edited by Bloomberg

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