BHP's iron ore outlook holds little cheer for small miners
* BHP chief says price reflects market fundamentals
* Bad sign for rivals struggling to stay in black
* Atlas, BC Iron post hefty half-year losses
By James Regan
SYDNEY, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Global miner BHP Billiton on Tuesday batted away suggestions of a turnaround in iron ore prices anytime soon - a bad omen for smaller producers struggling close to the break even point.
Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie, releasing BHP's half-year results, said iron ore demand in the all-important Chinese market was flat, although imports have increased by displacing higher-cost domestic supply.
But as supply costs have fallen, the price - around $62 a tonne - is now "more reflective of the medium-term fundamentals", he said.
That's a hefty enough price to keep BHP, the world's third-biggest iron ore miner, and fellow mega-producers Vale and Rio Tinto in the black but is borderline for smaller rivals.
Atlas Iron, which plans output of about 14 million tonnes in fiscal 2015 against BHP's 245 million tonnes, posted an underlying net loss of A$139 million ($108 million) for the half-year, against a A$61 million profit a year earlier. Continuación...