- In the iron ore market, supply issues including heavy rains at the start of the year, followed by staffing problems during the Covid-19 pandemic, have affected exports from Brazil. This has helped Australia gain a larger market share, but since June, Brazilian export volumes have returned to levels last seen before the emergence of Covid-19. Growing exports continue to provide a downside risk to iron ore prices, but the increasing shipments did not curtail the surging prices in the third quarter. Iron ore prices have been rising continuously since May and increased to six-year highs in the third quarter, despite the rise in Brazilian iron ore exports over the period.
- China’s demand has proven a stronger price driver than expected so far this year. Manufacturing activity in China continued to expand in September and its economy shows an enduring recovery after Covid-19. China’s official manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for September was 51.5, up from 51.0 in August and higher than most market observers had expected. Chinese iron and steel production also set record-high levels in the three months up to August.
- This week, the anticipated “winter cuts” in China have been initiated across various provinces with no end-dates reported. Although the impact on Chinese blast furnace iron production is never as extreme as headlines, such as widespread 50% cuts, might suggest, it is clear that the strong upward momentum in iron production over the past quarter will ease more than in previous years in the fourth quarter and in the first quarter of 2021. Therefore, our outlook for metallurgical coal prices remains only mildly positive, with upward momentum in non-Chinese demand remaining a base-case view as governments continue to support a recovery in manufacturing industries amid Covid-19.
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