Iron ore rallied earlier this week, supported by the easing of covid quarantine restrictions in China. Chinese authorities reduced the quarantine period for inbound travellers from 14 to 7 days.
But it all went downhill from there.
On Tuesday, President Xi Jinping reiterated his ‘zero-tolerance’ stance on covid outbreaks, saying it was better to forgo “a little economic growth” than “harm people’s health”.
On the economic data front, China's manufacturing and services PMIs rebounded in June after shrinking for three consecutive months.
Though, it was widely expected that PMIs would return to positive territory as Shanghai and Beijing began to exit lockdowns.
The base of China's economic restoration was far from strong, according to Caixin Global. The reporting agency flagged deteriorating household income and expectations caused by a weak labour market, which dampened the demand recovery.
Alarmingly, PMIs for the Chinese steel sector fell to 36.2, the lowest level since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. This is the likely catalyst behind the -4.7% decline in Chinese iron ore futures today.
The economic bellwether is showing no signs of improvement, down for a fourth straight week to a fresh 17-month low.
Copper's downtrend was unchanged in the face of improving Chinese PMIs and easing restrictions, which suggests the market is placing greater emphasis on a potential economic slowdown.
Last week, copper was down -20% in 10 trading days, the largest 10-day decline since 2020, according to Bespoke.
Aluminium production is energy intensive, requiring approximately 15-17MWh of electricity to produce a tonne.
Electricity prices in Europe vary between 20 to 400 euros per MWh, according to European power exchange, epexspot.
At a price of 200 euros per MWh, this assumes a tonne of aluminium is costing at least 3,000 euros. While current spot prices sit at just US$2,445.
Higher power prices are squeezing the margins of European smelters and weakening aluminium prices.
“I think it will be a matter of if, not when, we see more smelter cuts for aluminium. It isn’t sustainable for some production to continue,” a second European trader told Fastmarkets.
China on the other hand, produced a record 3.42m tonnes of aluminium in May as an abundance of hydropower helped offset elevated power costs.
Finance Writer & Social Media
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