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BHP's Commodities Outlook

Mining News - Published on Wed, 21 Aug 2019

Image Source: SteelGuru
Global steel production has maintained healthy growth in the H2 2019 financial year, continuing the upswing from the trough towards the end of the 2015 calendar year. However, the growth profile has become unbalanced recently, with robust expansion in China and the US offsetting weakness in Europe and Japan. As anticipated, steel mill margins have begun to normalise. We expect iron ore quality differentiation to remain a durable element in price formation for steel making raw materials. The Platts 62% Fe Iron Ore Fines price index has been elevated since the Brumadinho tailings dam tragedy in Brazil first disrupted the market in late January 2019. The lump premium has also been strong.

In addition to the decline in Brazilian exports, prices have responded to stronger than expected Chinese pig iron production and cyclone disruptions to Australian supply. We expect supply conditions will return to a more normal path on a one to three year timeframe, and prices are likely to be volatile as that adjustment plays out. In the longer term, the marginal price setting tonne will be provided by a higher-cost, lower value-in-use exporter from Australia or Brazil.

The Platts Premium Low-Volatile Metallurgical Coal price index reached a high in the middle of the 2019 financial year amid supply constraints in Queensland. Prices eased from the peak on weaker European demand and improved Australian supply. China’s import policies remain a source of uncertainty. Longer term, we expect India to sustain strong demand growth, while high-quality metallurgical coals are expected to continue to offer steelmakers value-in-use benefits.

Copper prices have been heavily influenced by swings in global trade uncertainty in the second half of the 2019 financial year. Against this backdrop, we believe underlying fundamentals remain sound. Copper demand should grow steadily. Grade decline, rising input costs, water constraints and a scarcity of high-quality future development opportunities continue to constrain the industry’s ability to meet this growing demand at low cost. Scrap supply and aluminium substitution are constraints on the upside.

Nickel prices have also been heavily affected by trade uncertainty in the second half of the 2019 financial year. In our view, growth in supply should keep pace with demand from traditional uses in the near term. The electrification of transport will require on-going investment in new sources of supply in the coming decades.

Crude oil prices were volatile in the second half of the 2019 financial year. Swings in global growth expectations, strategic behaviour of major producers, falling production in Venezuela and Iran, and geopolitical risk, all contributed to price volatility over the last six months. The fundamental outlook remains positive, underpinned by rising demand from the developing world and natural field decline in supply.

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Posted By : Sanju Moirangthem on Wed, 21 Aug 2019
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