Iron ore soars again: Can it hit US$100 a tonne?

The spot iron ore price rose another 1.5% overnight to US$65.33 a tonne, and has now added more than 10% in the past seven trading days.

The commodity has also risen more than 50% since the start of this year, shrugging off fears of a price of under US$40 a tonne it hit in December and January persisting for the rest of 2016.

That has seen a strong recovery in the share prices of several iron ore miners, with Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) adding 21%, BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP) up 28%, BC Iron Limited (ASX: BCI) over 42% and Fortescue Metals Group Limited (ASX: FMG) a whopping 193%.


Source: Google Finance

Atlas Iron Limited (ASX: AGO) share price is still down more than 20% year-to-date, but has staged a strong recovery in the last few months, including a 40% gain in the past month. Arguably, Atlas was the miner most at risk of falling over given its large debt levels and struggle to generate a profit at lower iron ore prices.

The soaring iron ore price comes as stockpiles at Chinese ports reach the highest levels since November 2014 according to Bloomberg.

Rising stockpiles have much to do with a more positive outlook for steel prices. Robert Rennie, chief currency strategist at Westpac, believes that there is still a reasonable level of demand for new construction, and iron ore prices could continue to rise in the foreseeable future. HSBC says the surge in coking coal is likely to keep global steel prices elevated. That means potentially higher prices for iron ore and coal ahead.

But that view is not shared by everyone. UBS has warned that the period from November may mark a death knell for prices. Morgan Stanley says the commodity’s outlook in the fourth quarter is deteriorating as holdings expand.

In my view, a return to US$100 a tonne appears highly unlikely.

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King doesn't own shares in any companies mentioned. You can follow Mike on Twitter @TMFKinga

The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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