62 Fe Iron Ore Outlook for Australian Iron Ore

62% Fe CFR Iron Ore continues its bullish trajectory, closing in on USD160/tonne. The futures markets show a continued bullish trend.

Chinese News
China announces a 5.5% economic growth target for 2022, down from 6% for 2021. Premier of the State Council for the PRC, Li Keqiang, stressed the priority of 'economic stability' for 2022. In addition to this, the Premier announced that Covid-19 controls will be adjusted as needed to facilitate economic growth priorities. As the Winter Olympics have now wound down, steel production caps are gradually being eased and should continue over the next coming months. These are all bullish signals for Iron Ore prices.

Russian/Ukraine Conflict
The Russia/Ukraine war is not expected to cause any significant impacts on iron ore supply on global markets, accounting for less than 40million tonnes of production annually.

Australian Local News
As Australia is still in the backend of tropical cyclone season, there is a possibility of disruption to normal shiploading activities at Pilbara ports, which could have a short-term negative impact on supply.

Western Australia has opened their hard border to other states. This will help with the labour constraints that have plagued many Australian Iron Ore (IO) producers over the last 18 months as there were significant hurdles to obtain skilled/specialist labour to assist with both preventative and corrective maintenance outages across mining sites in the Pilbara. Ideally, over the remaining fiscal year, we should see increased reliability in output from mines and Ports and adherence to output schedules.

Long-Term Outlook for Iron Ore
Chinese regulators have flagged speculative trading and excessive stockpile hoarding of commodities including IO as the reason for exorbitant prices seen over the last 18 months as opposed to actual demand seen from steel mills. It is rumoured Chinese regulators will look at consolidating the fractured steel production market in China through mergers/acquisitions in a bid to increase bargaining power when it comes to raw material purchasing. Given the 2022 goal of 'economic stability', this does seem like a necessary strategy for China to guarantee fair prices for their major inputs for economic growth. Consolidating the local steel production market to match the high market concentration of Australian IO producers would theoretically allow for better prices for Chinese purchasers.

However, given the soured relationship between Australia and China over the last 24 months, it is unlikely the Australian government will take to this kindly, as commodities prices over the last 18 months have delivered record taxes and royalties to Australian governments and essentially kept their economy alive since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In response, in the wildest scenario, we may see Australia back a cartel formation amongst the major IO producers - BHP , RIO , FMG - as a way of securing their own economic security.


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