COLUMN-Iron ore market dynamics are shifting beneath calm facade – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – May 22, 2018)

SINGAPORE, May 22 (Reuters) – The seaborne iron ore market appears to be in something of a sweet spot currently, with largely steady demand and prices that have been flatlining for the past couple of months.

Of course, another way of saying that a market is enjoying relatively stable and good times is that it’s boring, but in iron ore there is plenty of action bubbling beneath the seemingly calm exterior.

It’s not so much that iron ore prices or volumes are expected to shift dramatically in the coming months, it’s more that structural changes in the world’s biggest importer, China, are re-shaping how the industry works.

China imported 353.4 million tonnes of iron ore in the first four months of 2018, a mere 0.2 percent more than the same period last year, according to customs data. Prices have largely reflected this tepid demand growth and the fact that additions to supply have been modest.

The price of benchmark ore with 62 percent iron content at China’s Qingdao port MT-IO-QIN62=ARG, as assessed by Argus Media, stood at $65.05 a tonne on Monday, largely unchanged since last March.

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