Iron-ore prices tumbled as China’s subdued trade data for May and narrowing steel profit margins dampened the market’s enthusiasm about demand prospects for the steelmaking ingredient.
China, which accounts for more than half of the world’s steel output, imported 89.79 million tonnes of iron ore last month, substantially lower than the 98.57-million tonnes it bought in April and 102.11-million tonnes in March.
The data also showed China’s May steel exports plunged 33.9% from a month earlier to 5.27 million tonnes.
The most-traded September iron ore on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange ended daytime trading 4.4% lower at 1,118 yuan ($174.70) a tonne.
Iron-ore’s most active July contract on the Singapore Exchange was down 3.5% at $192.05 a tonne by 0728 GMT.
“The sharp drop in steel prices…has led to a sharp drop in the profits of steel mills,” Sinosteel Futures analysts said in a note.
Steel demand in China has slowed down, causing a “large, short-term market volatility”, they said.
Still, iron ore prices remained relatively high, with the most-liquid Dalian contract having risen about 17% from the May 27 low, while the benchmark 62% material stayed above $200 a tonne in the physical market, SteelHome consultancy data showed.
Tight global iron ore supply remains a key issue that has kept prices high. On Friday, Brazilian miner Vale SA announced fresh mine closures that would reduce its output by 40,000 tonnes a day.
“It is unlikely the global balance will feel the full weight of this supply vacuum as Vale fights to overturn this ruling as quickly as it was imposed,” said Atilla Widnell, managing director at Navigate Commodities in Singapore.
Construction steel rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange slumped 4.2%, while hot-rolled coil dipped 4.1%. Stainless steel slipped 1.4%.
Dalian coking coal fell 2.1%, while coke shed 3.6%.