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Material Matters: Oil, Gold, Iron Ore & Coal

Commodities | Jul 11 2019

A glance through the latest expert views and predictions about commodities. Oil; gold; iron ore; and coal.

-Supply concerns ease for oil while demand issues increase
-Goldman Sachs finds gold stocks continue to offer value
-Iron ore price, ultimately, likely to depend on Chinese steel production
-Wilsons constructive on thermal coal for second half of 2019


By Eva Brocklehurst


Brent crude oil has recovered losses endured after the sell-off following the meeting of OPEC et al in early July and has moved above US$66/bbl. The seizure by Gibraltar's authorities of cargo loaded with Iranian crude, reportedly headed for Syria, has revived tensions with Iran.

Meanwhile, Citi notes a dovish stance appears to have been affirmed following the June US Fed meeting, supporting investor sentiment for risky assets and weakening the US dollar.

Further dovish policy from the European Central Bank is also considered likely as Christine Lagarde takes over from Mario Draghi.

Supply-side concerns have eased as OPEC has extended production cuts amid heightened geopolitical tensions. Instead, RBC Capital Markets points out concerns regarding demand have stepped up, amid fears of a trade war and persistently weak refining margins.

Given the relatively weak macro backdrop, the broker prefers stocks that are leveraged towards bankable resources. The broker favours Santos ((STO)) for its growth opportunities. Carnarvon Petroleum ((CVN)) is also a favourite in the small-cap coverage.

For east coast gas leverage RBC Capital Markets assesses Comet Ridge ((COI)) is well-placed for a period of performance reversion compared with Cooper Energy ((COE)) and Beach Energy ((BPT)), with development of the Mahalo project accelerating.

The broker also likes Australis Oil ((ATS)), with its recently-introduced water-based drill solution proving successful and boding well for the remainder of its campaign at Quin.

Credit Suisse modestly increases forecasts for oil, raising 2019 Brent estimates to US$68/bbl. Modest tightening of balances in the second half of the year, combined with elevated geopolitical risk, is expected to support prices.

Forecasts for 2020 are lowered slightly, to US$65/bbl, as inventory is expected to build on robust non-OPEC growth, such as US shale, Brazil and deepwater start-ups in Norway/Guyana.

The main upside risks are supply disruptions because of hostilities between Iran and the US, a sharp reduction decline in Libya or a slowdown in US production growth. The main downside risks for oil are envisaged to be a further slowing in global demand growth, larger-than-expected US production growth and an absence of OPEC discipline.


Goldman Sachs increases 2019 gold price forecasts by 3% to US$1384/oz and the long-run price to US$1400/oz. The broker believes gold continues to offer significant diversification value. Goldman Sachs notes OceanaGold ((OGC)) has not participated in the sector rally because of underperformance at Haile, permit issues and production interruptions in the Philippines.

However, the broker suggests production growth from Haile and the extension to mine life in New Zealand are under-appreciated. Along with updates to gold price forecasts, Goldman Sachs upgrades the stock to Buy from Neutral.

Resolute Mining ((RSG)), also upgraded to Buy, has obtained a key de-risking catalysts when achieving commercial production at Syama's sub-level cave. Production has been well supported by the strong performance of the Tabakaroni oxides.

In contrast, Newcrest Mining ((NCM)), which has been the best performer under the broker's coverage, is downgraded to Sell. Goldman Sachs expects Cadia production will drop by -15% in FY20 as grades decline and expenditure lifts.

Iron Ore

Credit Suisse notes the spot iron ore price fell -US$8/t last Friday amid reports that a meeting of eight steel mills in China had condemned speculation in the iron ore price and launched an investigation. The representative group, China's iron and steel industry association, lobbies government in the interests of its members, which comprise 98 medium and large steel mills that account for around 75% of China's steel production.

However, Credit Suisse suspects the group is powerless on its own. Port stocks are expected to lift slightly over the next couple of weeks after Australian shipments rose when miners raced to meet guidance in the last two weeks of June.

Ultimately, the broker expects port stocks and the iron ore price will depend on Chinese steel production. If steel output falls in the second half of the year then port stocks may start to rebuild in the fourth quarter and the price unwind.


Metallurgical (coking) coal outperformed expectations over the June quarter as Wilsons notes supply/demand was favourable and steel production underpinned prices. On the other hand, thermal (energy) coal prices retreated as Indonesian supply into the market.

Wilsons is somewhat constructive on thermal prices at this point in the year. Thermal prices are expected to rebound over the second half as summer energy peaks in Asia and Europe occur and the traditional inventory build commences.

Wilsons maintains Buy ratings for both Whitehaven Coal ((WHC)) and Stanmore Coal ((SMR)) and upgrades New Hope Corp ((NHC)) to Buy as the valuation is attractive and investors are buying a free option on Acland. The broker considers the recent correction in the market a solid entry point for investors, given the yield and value.

Thermal coal price forecasts are reduced to US$80/t for FY20 and metallurgical coal forecasts are raised to US$180/t. Overall, average FY20 prices are expected to moderate but the timing is considered likely to be very different for the two major coal sets.

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