Rpt-Iron ore hits lowest in nearly 3 yrs; Rio Tinto shares plunge
* Rio Tinto shares at 3-year low, BHP falls most in a month * Global iron ore demand may drop in H2 vs H1 -Baosteel * China steelmakers to suffer bigger loss in Aug -CISA * Shanghai steel rebar slips for 14th day in a row By Manolo Serapio Jr SINGAPORE, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Iron ore prices have fallen to their lowest since 2009, sending shares of miner Rio Tinto to three-year troughs as a slowdown in top consumer China threatened to further sap demand, putting the fortunes of miners at risk. The price of the steel-making raw material has dropped by a third, or more than $45 per tonne since July as Chinese steel producers shunned cargoes amid declining demand. Prices could fall up to 30 percent more with no sign consumption will rebound anytime soon, analysts and traders said. Benchmark iron ore with 62 percent iron content slid nearly 5 percent to $90.30 per tonne on Wednesday, the lowest since November 2009, according to data provider Steel Index. "It's possible for prices to fall to as low as $65 to $70 in the spot market, before a recovery back to the $80 to $90 range," said Fairfax I.S. analyst John Meyer, adding that the price slide could continue for the next one to two months. "It's a little early to look for significant restocking in China. I think they're still shaking the tree." CHINA SLOWDOWN PUTS ON BRAKES Iron ore is the biggest revenue earner for top miners Vale, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton and producers have for years banked on China's industrialisation efforts to sustain its appetite for the steelmaking ingredient. But the slowdown in the Chinese economy put the brakes on a rally that lifted spot rates to near $200 last year, more than triple the level since 2008. Prices have been falling rapidly since early July. Shares of Rio Tinto in Australia fell 3.8 percent to close at A$48.63, their lowest since July 2009, while rival BHP lost 2.4 percent, the steepest single-day drop in a month. In London, BHP shares fell nearly 2 percent by 1003 GMT, the biggest drop in two weeks. Rio shares were down 1.8 percent, falling for a sixth day running. STRUGGLING Global demand for iron ore could drop in the second half of 2012 compared with the first six months, said Baoshan Iron and Steel Co Ltd, China's biggest listed steelmaker. The world's supply of iron ore would also rise by more than 50 million tonnes in the second half from the first, Baosteel said, weighing further on prices that have already dropped by almost $60 from this year's peak reached in April. Fading steel demand in China will see producers incurring bigger losses this month following a loss of 1.9 billion yuan ($299 million) in July. "If the steel sector keeps suffering, the iron ore sector will not see any rebound," said Henry Liu, head of commodity research at Mirae Asset Securities. The most active rebar contract for January delivery on the Shanghai Futures Exchange slipped 0.2 percent to close at 3,437 yuan a tonne, stretching its losing streak to a 14th day running. Rebar, or reinforcing steel bar which is used in construction, hit a record low of 3,327 yuan on Wednesday. Down almost 9 percent so far in August, it is on track to extend its monthly loss to a fifth straight month. The price of iron ore has fallen by nearly 23 percent this month as most Chinese buyers opted to keep their iron ore inventories low and bought smaller lots from port stockpiles instead of ordering fresh cargoes. "We're lucky we don't have so much cargo. Many traders are struggling to unload their material into the market," said an iron ore trader in Shanghai. Price offers for cargoes from Australia, Brazil and India fell by another $2-$4 a tonne on Thursday, traders said. Shanghai rebar futures and iron ore indexes at 1003 GMT Contract Last Change Pct Change SHFE REBAR JAN3 3437 -6.00 -0.17 PLATTS 62 PCT INDEX 92.5 -3.00 -3.14 THE STEEL INDEX 62 PCT INDEX 90.3 -4.50 -4.75 METAL BULLETIN INDEX 90.09 -6.70 -6.92 Rebar in yuan/tonne Index in dollars/tonne, show close for the previous trading day
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