Australia’s iron ore agony. The details of China’s February foreign trade figures, released yesterday, illustrate Australia’s terms of trade crunch. Chinese imports of iron ore fell to just on 68 million tonnes in February, down from January’s 78.5 million tonnes (and over 87 million tonnes in December) but 11% higher than February 2014. Australian exports to China from the Pilbara mines were 30.25 million tonnes in February, up from 30.15 million tonnes in January. But the value of February’s exports fell 39% from February last year (despite the 11% rise in volumes), thanks to the plunge in global prices, which hit a new low of $58.20 a tonne overnight Friday.
Chinese coal imports fell 9% to 15.26 million tonnes from January, but they are down 33% on February 2014. And while China’s crude oil imports rose 11% from February of last year, their value was down 46%, which explains the coming pain for a lot of energy companies around the world. More data on China’s inflation rate (tomorrow) and production and retail sales (Wednesday). The consumer inflation data will be the most interesting for any further signs of disinflation turning into deflation, like it has for much of the country’s industrial sector for the past three years. -- Glenn Dyer