Iron Ore: It’s in season

19 11 2009

Should you care to know, I was thrilled upon hearing that Vale wants to start iron ore contracts (2010/2011) negotiations this month. Thrilled because the last negotiations ended up being a succession of drama and political games. Who needs tv series when iron ore contract negotiations can do just as well?

There are a number of developments that have persisted or unfolded since the previous round of negotiations. Mr. Hu is still detained. Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are struggling to make their Pilbara iron ore tie up bearable to regulatory authorities in Europe and elsewhere. In a bid to calm authorities on their monopolistic tendencies, they have decide not to market jointly 15 per cent of their Pilbara production. On its side of the Pilbara, Fortescue, which has started Q4 negotiations with China roughly a month ago (and with Japan and Korea this week), has unveiled the Solomon project which plans on for a new mine, new rail and new port to produce roughly 60 mtpa to 100 mtpa of iron ore. Western Australia ventures are also at risk of facing higher royalties.

At present time, I guess it makes sense for iron ore producers to secure prices at a time where recovery is gathering speed amid the persistent risks of a double-dip recession materializing. The tone of the negotiations may be different this time around. BHP Billiton highlighted this autumn that China realised that it had to play with the big boys. Whether this means that China will stop pleading in favour of a Chinese mechanism in iron ore contracts is unclear. The recent rise in spot prices is also a contributing factor to weakening the Chinese position in negotiations, it has been reported.




One response

20 11 2009

Great read!

I am though not agreeing with your comment on the W-shaped recovery. Unlike the early 80’s, governments have and will keep interest rates low until at least 2010. I am personally betting on a U-shape, or even an L. Some share your views, for example:

By Paul Davidson, USA TODAY
WHY IT’S A W-SHAPED RECOVERY: Recovery cut short by recession, then a second rebound.

A small group of experts believes the nation will endure an unusual W-shaped, or “double-dip,” recovery in which the economy falls back into recession before growing again.

That’s what happened in the early 1980s when the economy soared the first few months of 1981 following a recession, before the Federal Reserve raised interest rates to head off inflation. That put the brakes on the recovery, setting off another, more severe downturn.

Steve Hanke, professor of Applied Economics at Johns Hopkins University, predicts a similar pattern this time. Besides keeping a key interest rate near zero, the Fed is spending $1.75 trillion to buy government securities in a bid to keep mortgage and other loan rates low.

The massive liquidity, plus rising commodity prices, will increase inflation, says Hanke, who is also a fellow at the conservative Cato Institute. Meanwhile, Hanke believes the central bank will be loath to raise interest rates to stave off inflation in 2010, because doing so could tamp down what he says will be a weak recovery in an election year.

As a result, he says, the Fed “will wait too long” and then be forced, perhaps in 2011, to raise interest rates sharply, sending the economy back into a tailspin.

Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner also believes a W-shaped recovery is possible, but for a different reason. The economy, he says, should grow at a fairly robust 3.4% in the third quarter as manufacturers boost output to replenish stocks. But he says it will likely hit a wall in the first quarter, with little customer demand to keep production up, higher state and local taxes that crimp spending and the expiration of the cash-for-clunkers program. Vitner thinks the economy will slow to a 1.8% crawl in the first quarter but could actually shrink before mounting a second, tepid recovery.

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