SHANGHAI, May 24 -- Iron ore prices are heading for their biggest weekly decline in more than eight months on concern China's moves to slow housing construction will curb demand from steel mills.
The cost of 62 percent iron-content ore delivered to Tianjin port decreased 0.8 percent to $154.60 a metric ton yesterday, according to The Steel Index. It's heading for the biggest weekly decline since the week ended Sept. 4 and has slipped 17 percent in the past month.
Sales of new homes in Shanghai dropped to a five-year low last week as China's tightening measures to curb price gains and cool speculation took effect. The nation may have to raise interest rates to further slow the property market, Asia Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda said yesterday.
"The biggest catalyst is growing concerns about Chinese monetary policy, particularly expectations of an interest rate rise, and any impact that'll have on the housing market," said Australian & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. Senior Commodity Strategist Mark Pervan in Melbourne. "The housing market is now quite a big component of overall construction in China, it's about 50 percent of construction activity."
Rio Tinto Group, Australia's largest iron ore exporter, fell 0.7 percent percent to A$61.80 at the 4:10 p.m. close on the Australian stock exchange. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's largest mining company, was little changed at A$36.77. Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. rose 4.2 percent.
Chinese steel prices will fluctuate this quarter as more capacity, increased loan and credit curbs and other measures to ease inflation offset rising demand for the material, the China Iron & Steel Association said this week. Benchmark steel prices have fallen 8.3 percent to 4,307 yuan a ton as of yesterday from an 18-month high on April 15, according to Beijing Antaike Information Development Co.
"The government intervention on the property market prompted steel traders to trim their inventories," said Zhou Xizeng, chief analyst with Citic Securities Co. in Beijing.
Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd. this year abandoned a 40-year tradition of setting prices on an annual basis in favor of quarterly contracts, winning a 90 percent price increase, based on indexes such as the Steel Index tracking deliveries into China.