Dry Bulk Market Facing Volatility, but Long-Term Fundamentals Are Positive
According to Mr. Christopher Whitty, Director, Towage & Marine Port Services with Intermodal, “iron ore prices have now declined after surging to their highest levels in more than six years earlier in September this year, on the back of supply disruptions in Brazil and record steel output in China. Market watchers have warned of a possible near-term slowdown in prices this month, though major financial institutions and analysts have mentioned that strong Chinese demand will most likely support prices for the rest of the year. China’s dominance in iron ore consumption gives it considerable capacity to set global prices. Chinese steel production is forecasted to drop slightly to 987 million tonnes this year, before potentially rebounding to more than 1 billion tons in 2021. China imports more than 70% of seaborne iron ore to feed its steel industry -which is the world’s most prominent”.
Intermodal’s analyst added that “on the supply side, Australia is dominant as it tops global annual iron ore exports. The commodity earns the country a substantial AUD100 billion in annual revenue. Sources in Australia are expecting elevated iron ore prices for the next two years. It is projected that commodity exports of the country will again thrive in the year ahead, which highlights the economic opportunity presented by the absence of a high number of coronavirus cases in Western Australia - which is responsible for the vast majority of Australia’s iron ore production. Australian miners have been enjoying the strongest iron ore prices in six years on the back of record Chinese demand and supply disruptions in Brazil, where dam safety and issues caused by the pandemic have adversely affected output levels”.
“Also underpinning iron ore prices in the short term are constraints on Brazilian supply. Vale SA is now facing tougher regulatory requirements following the consequences of the dam disaster coupled with the current coronavirus situation which is derailing production plans. In view of the above and the overall economic fundamentals, the country’s production is not expected to return to “normal” levels until late 2022. That being said, iron ore prices rose as high as $US130 a tonne in the past two months. Analysts predicted that iron ore would hold around $US100 a tonne “over coming months” and would gradually decline to be closer to $US85 a tonne by June 2021”, Whitty said.
He concluded that “given China’s important role in the dry bulk market and in particular it’s influence on the freight levels of the Capesize segment, it is always interesting to keep an eye on its development and recovery in industrial production. China’s intensive import levels have, so far, been enough to support market fundamentals and rates. However, volatility is still there for the dry bulk market and hopefully the rest of the world will also follow suit in the recovery wave at some point soon”.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide