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Miners not yet cheap: Morningstar explains the iron ore rout

Policy will continue to fuel short-term price movements but the long-term fundamentals for Australia's biggest export look shaky.

Mentioned: BHP Group Ltd (BHP), Fortescue Ltd (FMG), Rio Tinto Ltd (RIO)


Mathew Hodge: Frankly, I've been surprised that iron ore stayed as strong as it has for as long as it has. So, I think the question is more not why it's come off, but why it will stay so high for so long.

China has really matured in terms of its infrastructure. Its infrastructure per capita is near Western world levels. Its real estate has matured, less and less people are moving to the city each year, yet they continue to build more. So, those fundamental drivers are going away. There's not the runway of underdevelopment that China had 10, 20 years ago. That's been rapidly consumed. So, I think, who knows the iron ore price could have another wave. That really depends on China's government policy. But those fundamental drivers have substantially weakened.

And people might look at the iron ore price and go, wow, it's sold off a lot; there's an opportunity here. But 110 bucks is still a very high price and generates very strong returns for the iron ore miners. It's still way above the cost curve. So, I don't think we're at a stage yet where you could say these businesses are super cheap. And I think we've come through a period the last 20 years that has been exceptional in that we've had a big new economy enter the world and has accounted for all of the growth in iron ore. But that growth is maturing. So, I don't think the next 20 years are going to look anything like the 20 years that we've had.



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