China slowdown pushes coal, iron ore to fresh lows
GRAPHIC: Coal & iron ore prices: link.reuters.com/sub44w By Henning Gloystein SINGAPORE, March 20 (Reuters) - Key Asian mining markets are being thrown into crisis by China's slowdown and industrial reforms, with coal and iron ore prices falling this week to levels last seen before the global financial crisis.
Benchmark Australian coal settled below $60 a tonne on Thursday, the lowest price since before 2008/2009. Prices of iron ore exports to China are also at pre-crisis lows of less than $55 a tonne. Iron ore and coal have slumped 70 and 60 percent, respectively, since a 2011 peak, when severe floods shut down mines in Australia and the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan pushed up global energy prices.
The drop has hit miners, including majors such as BHP Billiton , Rio Tinto , Glencore , Vale and Fortescue. Iron ore specialist Fortescue, which is heavily exposed to China, scrapped a $2.5 billion bond sale this week after investors balked at the offer. Its share price has fallen almost 70 percent in the last year.
China relies on coal for almost 70 percent of its energy needs and it is also the world's biggest steel maker, for which iron ore is a key ingredient. Yet its steel demand is falling as harsher environmental inspections and the slowest economic growth in 25 years force steel mills to cut output. Its coal demand fell last year for the first time in decades as the government gets tough in its declared "war on pollution".
Commodities brokerage Marex Spectron said China's current industrial overcapacity is a hangover of the government-directed stimulus during the 2008/2009 crisis. Barclays said the outlook will remain weak as Beijing engineers an economic transition to a less investment-driven, more consumer-led economy: "The consensus view is that this will lead to a slowing of demand for almost all commodities." (Editing by Neil Fullick)
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