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Iron ore tumbles as spot market comes under Beijing scrutiny

Iron ore futures in Asia tumbled on Monday, with losses widening after the Chinese authorities launched an investigation into the spot market as prices of the key steelmaking ingredient remained high despite repeated warnings against hoarding and speculation.

The most-traded September iron ore on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange DCIOcv1 ended daytime trading 8.8% lower at 1,121 yuan ($173.31) a tonne, after earlier hitting 1,118.50 yuan, its weakest since June 8.

The most-active July contract on the Singapore Exchange SZZFN1 fell as much as 5.7% to $195.05 a tonne, the lowest also since June 8.

China’s state planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), and the State Administration for Market Regulation vowed to “strictly punish and disclose” market irregularities such as hyping prices and hoarding.

The authorities visited the Beijing Iron Ore Trading Center to discuss works to ensure supplies and stabilise prices, according to a NDRC statement.

Spot prices had held ground above $200 a tonne over the past three weeks, despite government efforts to rein in commodity inflation partly driven by speculative trades that helped propel iron ore to a record peak above $230 last month. SH-CCN-IRNOR62

Both Dalian and SGX benchmarks, however, were already under pressure when trading began, as sentiment was hit by a seasonal slowdown in construction activity in top steel producer and consumer China.

“It’s safe to say that China’s seasonal slowdown in construction steel demand has now arrived, with rebar inventories at steel mills and warehouses across China both showing firm builds,” said Atilla Widnell, managing director at Navigate Commodities in Singapore.

Steel futures also fell, with rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange SRBcv1 down 4.2%. Hot rolled coil SHHCcv1 fell 4.3%, while stainless steel SHSScv1 slipped 0.6%.

Dalian coking coal DJMcv1 slid 4.2% and coke DCJcv1 shed 5.4%, after seven straight sessions of gains, as the coal market has also come under similar government scrutiny.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz in Manila, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Shounak Dasgupta)

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