铁矿石价格暴跌探秘

Investors searching for signs of a double-dip recession could do worse than look at iron ore. Prices have tumbled by more than a third in three months, as Chinese steelmakers have scaled down production.

正在寻找双底衰退迹象的投资者,不妨关注一下铁矿石价格。由于中国钢铁制造商减产,铁矿石价格三个月来已大跌逾三分之一。

While prices for other commodities have stabilised after sharp falls in May, as concerns about a renewed slump rose, the price of iron ore, central to the global economy because of its use as a raw material for steel, has continued to fall.

在5月份的大跌之后,其它大宗商品价格已然企稳,但随着市场对于暴跌再现的担忧加剧,铁矿石价格继续下挫。作为钢铁的原材料,铁矿石对于全球经济至关重要。

Oil and copper, for instance, have recovered from recent lows, but spot benchmark iron ore – 62 per cent iron content – has dropped 18 per cent in the past three weeks and 36 per cent from its April peak.

举例来说,油价和铜价已从近期低点回升,但现货基准铁矿石(含量为62%的铁矿石)价格在过去三周内下跌了18%,从4月份的高点下跌了36%。

At the same time, the Baltic Dry Index of freight costs, regarded by some as a barometer of the global economy when it plunged in 2008, has fallen 60 per cent in less than two months.

与此同时,反映船运成本的波罗的海干散货指数(Baltic Dry Index)在不到两个月的时间内大跌60%。该指数在2008年出现暴跌,当时被一些人视为全球经济的晴雨表。

The main reason for the plunge in iron ore is that record output by Chinese steelmakers flooded the market with steel this year. China’s economy, too, has been cooling as Beijing has sought to curb inflation.

铁矿石价格暴跌的主要原因是,今年中国钢铁制造商的产出创下了纪录,令市场中供应泛滥。同时,由于中国政府力图抑制通胀,中国经济也在降温。

“The world is awash with steel,” says Melinda Moore, commodities analyst at Credit Suisse.

“全世界钢铁泛滥,”瑞士信贷(Credit Suisse)大宗商品分析师梅林达·摩尔(Melinda Moore)表示。

That has pushed steel prices down and squeezed the margins of steelmakers, many of whom are paying contracted iron ore prices significantly higher than the spot price.

这推低了钢铁价格,并挤压了钢铁制造商的利润空间。许多制造商目前支付的铁矿石合约价格,远高于现货价格。

Tom Albanese, chief executive of Rio Tinto, on Wednesday acknowledged “some weakening in sentiment” due, in part, to a “slight slowdown in Chinese growth”.

力拓(Rio Tinto)首席执行官艾博年(Tom Albanese)周三承认“人气有所减弱”,一定程度上归因于“中国增长速度略有放缓”。

Steel Market Intelligence, a market research company, said the Chinese steel industry had brought its troubles upon itself by “producing high-cost steel at a breakneck pace”.

市场研究公司Steel Market Intelligence表示,中国钢铁业“正以非常危险的速度生产高成本钢铁”,给自己招惹麻烦。

“We are stunned by the lack of financial good sense by China’s high-cost steelmakers who continue to turn gold into straw,” it says.

“中国高成本钢铁制造商继续把黄金变成稻草,他们财务判断力的匮乏,令我们感到震惊,”该公司表示。

Seasonal factors, such as a traditional manufacturing slowdown in China during summer rains, have exacerbated the effects of oversupply.

季节性因素,如中国夏季雨季传统上制造业活动放缓,加重了供应过度的效应。

Government measures to cool economic growth and the removal of an export rebate have hit steel production.

政府旨在为经济增长降温的举措和取消出口退税的做法,打击了钢铁生产。

A recent Steel Business Briefing survey showed that half of the mills surveyed expected to cut production this quarter, albeit by less than 5 per cent.

Steel Business Briefing最近一项调查显示,接受调查的钢厂中,有一半预计本季度将减产,不过幅度不到5%。

“Every mill that you talk to of a certain size is definitely getting in that mood,” says a Macquarie Bank analyst, noting that with steel prices flat compared with last year and iron ore prices at twice the price they were this time last year, mills have no incentive to continue producing.

“所有你与之交谈过的具有一定规模的钢厂,都绝对开始有那种想法,”麦格理银行(Macquarie Bank)一名分析师表示。他指出,由于钢铁价格与去年基本持平,而铁矿石价格是去年这个时候的两倍,炼钢厂没有继续生产的动机。

Figures published yesterday showed crude steel output for June, on a daily average basis, fell 1 per cent from May.

昨日发布的数据显示,在日均的基础上,中国6月份粗钢产量比5月份减少了1%。

But, in spite of the tough conditions, there are no signs yet that mills are defaulting on iron ore shipments, according to analysts and industry executives. In 2008, when commodity prices tumbled as the world sank into recession, many Chinese steelmakers were accused of defaulting to take advantage of cheaper spot prices.

但分析师和行业高管表示,尽管处境艰难,仍没有迹象显示,炼钢厂在铁矿石发货方面违约。2008年,当大宗商品价格因全球陷入衰退而暴跌时,许多中国钢铁制造商被指故意违约,以利用较低的现货价格。

Some analysts say demand is set to rebound after the traditionally slow summer period, as the slowdown will be temporary.

一些分析师表示,在传统上不太活跃的夏季过后,需求势必反弹,因为这种放缓将是暂时的。

Analysts point out that apparent consumption of steel year-on-year in June was negative, in spite of the fact that end-user industries – car manufacturing and white goods, for example – rose at double-digit rates during the same period.

分析师指出,尽管终端用户行业——如汽车制造和白色家电——6月实现了两位数的增长,但同期明面上的钢铁消费同比出现负增长。

“The picture is being skewed by end users running down inventory,” says Rafael Halpin, analyst at Steel Business Briefing in Shanghai. “After such heavy destocking, even a slight rebound in demand for cars and white goods could boost demand for steel substantially later this quarter.”

“终端用户将耗尽库存,这令情形有些扭曲,”Steel Business Briefing驻上海分析师拉斐尔·哈尔平(Rafael Halpin)表示。“在如此大规模的去库存举动之后,对汽车和白色家电的需求即使只是略有反弹,也可能在本季度晚些时候大幅推高钢铁需求。”

Indeed, in recent days, spot iron ore has stopped falling and is trading at about $118 a tonne, close to the cost of production for some miners, while traders report increased activity on the market.

事实上,铁矿石现货价格近日来已经止跌,目前价格约为每吨118美元,接近一些矿商的生产成本,而交易员表示,市场中成交量有所放大。

Prices may come under pressure this year as some new production comes onstream, but if Chinese demand continues to rise, analysts believe the market will remain tight for years.

由于一些新产能投产,今年价格可能承压,但分析师认为,如果中国需求继续增长,未来很多年市场将维持供应紧张局面。

Ms Moore says her preferred leading indicator of global industrial production – the price of scrap steel in Turkey – has since mid-June been rising.

摩尔表示,她最看重的全球工业生产领先指标——土耳其废钢价格——自6月中旬以来一直在上涨。

英国《金融时报》杰克·福尔奇(Jack Farchy)、帕提·沃德米尔(Patti Waldmeir)、莱斯利·胡克( Leslie Hook )报道

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