Own Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) shares? What to look for when the miner reports on Wednesday

The Rio Tinto share price is within arms’ reach of record highs. Here’s what to keep an eye on when the mining giant delivers its results this week.

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The Rio Tinto Ltd (ASX: RIO) share price has struggled to break its May record high of $132.94 in the past few weeks.

The mining giant is expected to make an early appearance for reporting season.

According to the company’s website, its half-year results will be announced on Wednesday, 28 July.

With Rio Tinto’s results right around the corner, here’s what investors might want to look out for.

Iron ore shipments to be at low end of guidance

Rio Tinto released its second-quarter production results on 16 July.

The update set expectations that iron ore shipments for the full year FY21 will be at the lower end of its guidance range.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said, “We faced some challenges in the first half, notably at our Pilbara operations which were impacted by replacement mine tie-ins and materially higher rainfall.”

Rio Tinto’s second-quarter results flagged a 9% decline against the prior corresponding period in iron ore production from its Western Australia Pilbara operations, while shipments from the region also tumbled 12%.

The company blamed coronavirus-related restrictions, with Stausholm saying:

“Heightened COVID-19 constraints, which resulted in numerous travel restrictions, added further pressure on the business and limited our ability to access additional people, particularly in Western Australia and Mongolia, in order to deliver operational improvements or maintenance initiatives and accelerate projects.”

On the day of this announcement, the Rio Tinto share price opened 1.53% lower to $129.13 before closing down just 0.41% to $130.60.

Resilient iron ore prices

While production and shipments might be a slight disappointment, iron ore prices have continued to buoy the Rio Tinto share price.

The second-quarter production results provided positive commentary for both the global economy and iron ore markets. Rio Tinto said that:

The iron ore price has remained resilient on a surge in demand while supply has struggled to keep pace. China’s steel demand is up 5% year on year in the first half, with the construction and automotive sectors performing strongly.

Consumption was also robust across the rest of the world, with demand recovering +15% in 2021 versus 2020. The major iron ore producers’ supply continues to lag expectations, while high cost supply balances the overall market.

According to the second-quarter results, average pricing in the first half for Rio Tinto’s iron ore was US$154.9 per wet metric tonne on an FOB (free on board) basis.

Benchmark iron ore prices remain strong at more than US$215/tonne.

About the Rio Tinto share price

The Rio Tinto share price has rallied 13.29% year-to-date, in line with the 12.47% increase in the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO).

According to Commsec, Rio Tinto is forecast to deliver a HY21 net profit after tax (NPAT) of US$13 billion.

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