A Weak Signal for the Iron Ore Market


The market fell hard yesterday, with the ASX200 down 60 points.

It seems that things are playing out just like he said.

Who’s ‘he’? Slipstream Trader Murray Dawes. He’s just made a presentation explaining exactly why you should expect the ASX200 to fall much, much further. As Murray said in the office yesterday – ‘the market is primed for it’.

If you missed Murray’s presentation, you can watch it here.

The market may be ‘primed’ for a fall from a technical or charting perspective, but yesterday’s move was, not surprisingly, driven by central banks. Although this time Ben Bernanke wasn’t involved…not directly anyway.

Yesterday we mentioned the hawkish tone set by the People’s Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan, and the need for vigilance on inflation. Commodity markets didn’t like it. The iron ore market really didn’t like it and the price fell a hefty 3.1% on the day. Overnight, it fell another 4.4% and now trades around US$133/tonne.

That flowed through to the mining sector. One of the world’s largest iron ore miners, Rio Tinto, fell over 2%. Its share price performance over the past year is not particularly good. More worryingly for those invested in the ‘China rebound’ story, the share price performance over the last month is not good at all.

Rio Tinto – Signalling Weak Iron Ore Markets

Rio Tinto - Signalling Weak Iron Ore Markets


Yet iron ore prices are still around US$133/tonne. That’s very healthy. But Rio’s share price, and that of the other iron ore miners, is telling you that lower prices are ahead.

That’s not good news for Australia’s terms of trade and national income. By the way, the recently released national accounts tell us that in the three months to December 2012, ‘real net national disposable income’ fell 0.1%. It’s a broader measure of Australia’s economic performance from the standard GDP figure you read about in the press, and it incorporates the income boost or otherwise from Australia’s terms of trade.

Because Australia relies so heavily on iron ore for its export income (it accounted for 25% of all merchandise exports in the month of January) what happens to the iron ore price matters.

And what happens in China matters to the iron ore price. Which brings us back to Zhou Xiaochuan. If he’s making noise about wanting to contain inflation, that poses a risk to ongoing massive growth in fixed asset investment, which has been supported by very easy money in China.

That means less steel production (China is already suffering from excess steel-making capacity) which means less demand for iron ore and coal. Taken together, iron ore and coal accounted for 42% of Australia’s merchandise exports in January. Oh, and China took in a massive 34% of our exports in the first month of the year too.

One country taking one-third of our exports…hmmm.

So you can understand why the market didn’t really like Zhou’s comments. (Although it has promptly forgotten about them again today!)

Greg Canavan
for The Daily Reckoning Australia

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From the Archives…

Ben Bernanke’s Pseudo Logic
8-03-13 – Dan Denning

China: The Biggest Bubble Ever?
7-03-13 – Bill Bonner

The Disaster of Central Planners and Other Simpletons
6-03-13 – Bill Bonner

What the Shale Gas Revolution Could do to LNG Prices
5-03-13 – Dan Denning

Politicians Are Clowning Around With Your Wealth
4-03-13 – Dan Denning

Greg Canavan
Greg Canavan is the Managing Editor of The Daily Reckoning and is the foremost authority for retail investors on value investing in Australia. He is a former head of Australasian Research for an Australian asset-management group and has been a regular guest on CNBC, Sky Business’s The Perrett Report and Lateline Business. Greg is also the editor of Crisis & Opportunity, an investment publication designed to help investors profit from companies and stocks that are undervalued on the market. To follow Greg's financial world view more closely you can subscribe to The Daily Reckoning for free here. If you’re already a Daily Reckoning subscriber, then we recommend you also join him on Google+. It's where he shares investment research, commentary and ideas that he can't always fit into his regular Daily Reckoning emails. For more on Greg go here.

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