Ongoing strong outlook for China, according to Macquarie

Macquarie hosted its 2008 China Commodities Conference last week and has provided a summary of some of the main presentations from the week. Most speakers highlighted the ongoing strong outlook for the Chinese economy both in the short and the medium term with little impact being felt from the US slowdown; in fact, domestic demand in construction appears to be slightly faster than last year. It was felt that the negative impact from the earthquake in Sichuan will be minimal and that it should be slightly positive for 2009 demand as a result of rebuilding.

There was a variety of views on the impact of industrial closures for environmental and other reasons around the time of the Beijing Olympics (starting August 8). Despite all the speculation and conjecture, nothing firm has been issued by the government regarding actual closures. Some speakers opined that up to 100 Mt/y of steel capacity within a 300 km radius of Beijing could be closed for up to three months, losing 20 Mt of steel production. Others thought this was way too high and highlighted likely reductions in explosives supplies to Chinese mines (partly for terrorist reasons), which would create coal and iron ore shortages. On balance, Macquarie thinks the actual impacts will be minimal but more likely to be bullish (reducing supplies of materials more than demand) for commodity prices.

Presentations on the whole were bullish for coal (coking and thermal) and steel prices and slightly negative for short-term iron ore spot prices. Speakers were bearish on short-term developments in the nickel market (due to stainless production cuts), but prices are below marginal costs of production of nickel pig iron so the downside is limited. Short-term aluminium, zinc and copper looked a little weaker but the medium-term prospects for aluminium (due to rising costs) and copper (due to a bounce in demand after de-stocking) remain strong.