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Monday, January 12, 2015 8:45 PM

China's Iron Ore Inventories Post Biggest Decline in Two Years; Yuan Observation; Pro-Cyclical Stupidity

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China's iron ore inventories have plunged like a rock as has the price of iron ore itself. Bloomberg reports Iron Ore Holdings at China’s Ports Drop Below 100 Million Tons.

Iron ore inventories at ports in China fell below 100 million metric tons for the first time since February as the holdings in the world’s largest buyer dropped for a seventh week to post the longest run of declines in two years.

About 71 percent of the port inventories are owned by mills and the remainder belongs to traders, Steelhome said in the report. The holdings, tallied at 44 ports, are sufficient to support steel-making in China for 30.37 days, it said.
Iron Ore Down 50% Last Year

The Australian Business Review reports Iron Ore Price Reverse Gathers Pace, With New 2 percent Decline
At the end of the latest offshore session, benchmark iron ore for immediate delivery to the port of Tianjin in China was trading at $US68.50 a tonne, down 1.9 per cent from its previous close of $US69.80 a tonne, and just 4 per cent above the five-and-a-half-year low of $US65.70 reached just prior to Christmas.

At the start of the year optimism in the iron ore sector was beginning to grow as the commodity staged a recovery of almost 10 per cent from its December trough, but once again fears of a dead cat bounce are surfacing as oversupply worries dampen investor interest.

Iron ore lost about 50 per cent over the course of last year as surging supply could not be met by a similar lift in demand and expansion plans from major producers threaten to exacerbate the oversupply situation in 2015.

The latest price retreat weighed on industry heavyweights Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton in London trade overnight, with stock in the two miners falling 2 per cent and 1.8 per cent, respectively.

It follows a broad retreat in the stock prices of iron ore miners on the ASX yesterday, with Fortescue Metals Group sinking 3 per cent alongside heavier falls of 8 per cent and 15 per cent for BC Iron and Atlas Iron.
Yuan Observation

The plunge in iron ore (base metals in general) brings up an interesting observation.

Just a few years back, hyperinflationists thought it would have been wise for China to dump its US dollar reserves for virtually anything, but especially iron, copper, and oil. I took the other side of the debate.

Flashback November 19, 2012: How Sustainable are China's Copper, Cotton, Steel Imports? What About Chinese Purchases of Canadian and Australian Real Estate? Fresh Thinking on Balance of Payments

Pro-Cyclical Stupidity

Not only were the hyperinflationists wrong about the US dollar (and still are), but they were moonshot wrong in regards to what China should be doing.

A few of us, notably Michael Pettis at China Financial Markets, predicted the collapse in base metals for exactly the right reason: That China's growth was poised to slow faster than most thought. And it has. And China's growth will slow still more, faster than most expect.

For China to blow its reserves on metals and oil at the peak of the market would have been pro-cyclical stupidity, but that is precisely what hyperinflationists recommended.

Somehow, hyperinflationists thought that China could keep building ghost malls where no one shops, railroads that no one uses, and entire ghost cities where no one lives, in perpetuity.

It's now obvious, China can't. Indeed, the entire global economy is slowing faster than most realize. The US and Germany most assuredly will not be immune.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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