Mining shares take a hit on China's financial slowdown

August 24, 2015

Global financial markets have taken a hit as the world’s concern of the health of China’s economy continues to worsen. In the United States, the Dow plunged as much as 1,000 points on Aug. 24 in response to China reporting an 8.5 percent drop in China’s Shanghai Composite.

Mining companies, which rely heavily on China as the world’s largest consumer of commodities, have took a beating over the weekend.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the rout began in Australia after disappointing results from two big mining companies there. South32 Ltd., which mines commodities from coal to manganese, fell 7.6 percent, taking its overall slide since it was spun out of BHP Billiton PLC in May to 34 percent. Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., the world’s fourth-largest producer of iron ore, tumbled 15 percent, after reporting an 88 percent dive in annual earnings. A broader measure of mining stocks listed in Sydney was down 5 percent on Monday, to its lowest level in more than a decade.
Investors’ bearishness spread to London, with shares in major miners BHP, Anglo American PLC and Glencore PLC all down more than 5 percent in early trading.

The sector is being hit hard by fears of a deepening slowdown in China, which this month has offered lackluster economic numbers and an unexpected currency devaluation. China’s main stock market closed 8.5 percent lower Monday.

For miners, a weakening Chinese economy may impair their best customer’s appetite for resources. China buys two thirds of all iron ore traded by sea, and about 40 percent of the world’s copper.

The share prices of resources companies on Monday tracked the tumbling prices for the commodities they produce, including copper, which sank to its lowest point in more than six years, and oil, with Brent crude falling below US$45 a barrel for the first time since March 2009. Iron-ore futures on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange were recently down 4 percent.

The carnage was visible across the Australian stock market, heavy in resources producers. The benchmark index dropped to its lowest level in two years as BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest miner, fell 5 percent and Rio Tinto Ltd. 5.2 percent.

While metals prices are the key reason for miners’ woes, there are growing concerns about their balance sheets as well. Fortescue, for example, is struggling to pay down a $10 billion debt pile run up during the commodities boom years. Its market value is now down to roughly $4 billion—though it said Monday it would continue to pay an annual dividend, albeit sharply less than last year’s.

South32 said it planned to slash operating costs as it reported a lower-than-anticipated net profit in its maiden annual fiscal result.



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