Mining firms' shares claw back losses

Steel pipes Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Steel pipes wait to be loaded on to ships at Lianyungang, in eastern China's Jiangsu province

Shares in mining companies clawed back early losses on London markets on concerns over weak commodity prices.

Anglo American shares, after falling more than 12% on Tuesday, fell another 10% before closing down just 1.2%.

Other mining shares recovered from fierce selling pressure from investors worried by weakening commodity prices.

Anglo announced on Tuesday it would cut some 85,000 of its workforce in a massive restructuring.

Among the major commodities, only oil managed to stage a slight recovery, with Brent crude rising back above $40 a barrel.

However, most analysts believe that any recovery will be short-lived with the world continuing to face a glut of commodities.

Rick Spooner of CMC Markets said: "The strong downward momentum in oil markets stalled. However, there was no news to support optimism and with spot iron ore [prices] continuing to drift lower, investors are likely to remain nervous about mining and energy stocks today.''

The price of iron ore fell to $39.25 a tonne on Wednesday. It peaked at close to $200 in 2011.

On Wednesday morning in London, the prices of shares in mining companies see-sawed through the session. Shares in Rio Tinto fell mid-morning but then rallied 5% by midday, while BHP Billiton was up 4% and Glencore gained 5%.

Beaufort Securities trader Basil Petrides said: "The miners will probably continue to weaken while the Chinese economic outlook remains a concern."

Slow China demand

The slowing Chinese economy has cut the demand for steel there. Many steel producers have shut down and much of the iron ore that was destined for their furnaces is lying idle at China's ports.

China has cut export taxes on steel and iron products to shift the metal out of the country, but that has only served to push global prices lower.

London-listed mining stocks have fallen by about 50% this year, as China's economic growth continues to slow, with Anglo American one of the biggest casualties.

Its stock has fallen almost two-thirds this year, largely because of its higher-cost iron ore mines.

Alastair McCaig of IG Group said: "Once again the mining sector is dragging the FTSE lower, although not with the aggression seen yesterday. Worries that Anglo American's actions yesterday might become the template for others in that sector have seen investors running for the exits."

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Oil's weak recovery

Few analysts thought the slight recovery in oil prices on Wednesday would be sustainable.

Mike Tholen, economics director at offshore trade body Oil and Gas UK, said low oil prices would mean more job losses in the oil industry.

"We have to recognise that at the current price outlook, there will be further job losses. [The UK oil industry] is inevitably going to be smaller for many years to come," he said.

"We have oil fields now which are barely making enough money, and not enough money to cover their running costs in some cases."

Oil prices face downward pressure following the decision late last week by the Opec cartel to keep output high in the face of huge global oversupply.

The supply of oil is estimated to be up to two million barrels in excess of demand worldwide. Most analysts say they do not see prices rising much until late 2016 at the earliest.

James Hughes, chief market analyst at GKFX, said: "It seems that whatever happens, Opec will not budge and yet again have reiterated their stance that the markets will undo this mess themselves."

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