【英语中国】中国治霾利好优质铁矿石 High-grade iron ore boosted by China pollution crackdown

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2014-2-4 08:59

小艾摘要: Will seaborne supply growth overwhelm Chinese steel production? Or will it manage to keep pace?These have been key questions facing the iron ore market over the past couple of years. But the story in ...
High-grade iron ore boosted by China pollution crackdown
Will seaborne supply growth overwhelm Chinese steel production? Or will it manage to keep pace?

These have been key questions facing the iron ore market over the past couple of years. But the story in 2014 has levels of complexity. One is Beijing’s war on pollution.

Mills in China’s key steel making provinces of Hebei and Jiangsu are under pressure to lower emissions and comply with new air pollution standards following smog crises last year in several big cities.

As a result, they are buying higher quality ore, known as lump, that can be loaded into blast furnaces without sintering, a process that is a big source of pollution and sulphur dioxide.

Premiums for lump over the miners’ regular product, fines, are increasing as tougher environmental standards force Chinese steelmakers to use a different mix of raw materials in their furnaces. The same is true for iron ore pellets.

The price of Australia lump, as assessed by Metal Bulletin, is fetching a premium of between $17 and $18.6 a tonne over fines with 62 per cent iron content – the benchmark iron ore price for financial markets. Six months ago the premium was at $8 a tonne, while pellets with 65 per cent iron ore content are trading at a premium of $40-$42 a tonne to fines, up $10 in the same period.

That is good news for several large mining companies, including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Vale, which are among the top suppliers of high-grade ores.

A further increase in premiums will help cushion a decline in the benchmark price, which has dropped 5 per cent in the year to date to $124.2 a tonne mainly on concerns about slowing economic growth and a credit squeeze in China.

However, greater reliance on high-grade ore will undermine China’s efforts to diversify its sources of iron ore away from Australia and Brazil, which provide more than 70 per cent of its seaborne imports.

Macquarie said mills in Hebei, which account for about 40 per cent of China’s steel production, were using 85 per cent fines, 10 per cent lump and 5 per cent pellet in 2012. It now thinks they are using 70 per cent, 20 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.

Andrew Harding, head of Rio Tinto’s iron ore business, has predicted there would be “more work” to curtail sintering plants in and around Hebei. China’s crackdown on smog could provide a prop to prices, or at least the high-quality ore and pellets produced by the likes of Rio Tinto and Vale.

“The net result of that is we should see a bias towards an improving lump premium,” he said.

The Commodities Note is a regular online commentary on the industry from the Financial Times

中国通过海路进口铁矿石的增长将远远快于国内钢铁生产的扩张步伐?还是将与之保持同步?

这些是过去几年铁矿石市场面临的关键问题。但2014年的情况有些复杂。一个因素是中国的污染治理行动。

自从去年中国好几个大城市深陷雾霾危机之后,中国两个钢铁生产大省河北和江苏的钢铁厂就面临着巨大压力,它们被要求减少排放,遵守新出台的空气污染标准。

因此,它们正购买质量较高的铁矿石,即块矿,这种铁矿石不必经过烧结就能投入鼓风炉冶炼,而烧结过程是产生污染物和二氧化硫的一个主要来源。

由于更严格的环境标准迫使中国钢铁制造商在冶炼过程中采用与以往不同的原材料组合,块矿相对于普通铁矿石产品——粉矿的价差趋于扩大。球团矿与粉矿的价差也在扩大。

据英国《金属导报》(Metal Bulletin)评估,澳大利亚块矿与品位为62%的粉矿(金融市场上的铁矿石价格基准)之间的价差目前介于每吨17美元至18.6美元之间。6个月前,两者的价差为每吨8美元。品位为65%的球团矿与粉矿的价差为每吨40美元至42美元,同期上涨10美元。

对于几家大型矿商而言,这是个好消息,包括必和必拓(BHP Billiton)、力拓(Rio Tinto)和淡水河谷(Vale),它们是高品位铁矿石的主要供应商。

价差进一步扩大将有利于缓解铁矿石基准价格的下滑趋势。今年迄今,铁矿石基准价格已下跌5%,至每吨124.2美元,主要原因是市场担心中国经济增速放缓和出现信贷紧缩。

然而,对高品位铁矿石的依赖增强,将破坏中国扩大铁矿石供应来源的努力,目前澳大利亚和巴西占到中国海运铁矿石进口的70%以上。

麦格理(Macquarie)指出,在2012年,河北钢铁厂对粉矿、块矿和球团矿的应用比例分别为85%、10%和5%,如今则分别为70%、20%和10%。中国约40%钢铁产量出自该省。

力拓铁矿石业务主管安德鲁?哈丁(Andrew Harding)预测,中国将采取“更多措施”限制河北及其周边的烧结厂。中国治理雾霾的行动可能会为铁矿石价格提供支撑,特别是力拓和淡水河谷等大矿商生产的优质铁矿石和球团矿。

他表示:“最终结果是,我们应该会看到块矿溢价趋于扩大。”

Commodities Note是英国《金融时报》定期发布的大宗商品在线评论

译者/梁艳裳

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