Stock Strategist Industry Reports

Supply Disruptions Raise Our Near-Term Iron Ore Price Forecast

Mathew Hodge, CFA

Near-term tightness in the iron ore market has persisted and intensified, with several developments in Brazil further restricting  Vale’s (VALE) supply and Cyclone Veronica off Australia interrupting Pilbara shipments. We’ve factored in a reduction of another 20 million tonnes in Vale’s output in 2019 and 10 million tonnes in 2020. We now expect Vale to produce 350 million tonnes in 2019 and 370 million tonnes in 2020, down from an estimated 390 million tonnes in 2018. For  Rio Tinto (RIO),  BHP (BHP), and Fortescue, we’ve lowered our forecasts by 10 million tonnes in total for 2019 due to the cyclone. The estimated 30 million tonnes of lost supply from Vale and the Pilbara in 2019 is a more than 1% reduction to the seaborne iron ore market.

Disruptions mean that higher-cost iron ore is needed to balance the market, such as from domestic mines in China. The iron ore price has averaged $83 per tonne year to date, well ahead of our prior $65 per tonne forecast for 2019. Accordingly, we are raising our near-term iron ore forecasts to $73 in 2019, $60 in 2020, and $50 per tonne in 2021. Our prior forecasts were $65 in 2019, $55 in 2020, and $40 per tonne in 2021. Our unchanged $40 per tonne long-term forecast now starts a year later, in 2022.

Mathew Hodge, CFA does not own shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar's editorial policies.