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1/24/09

Just how bad is the downturn in iron ore production?

Answer: Very bad.


I read this report from BN Americas this week that started like this:

Brazilian miner Vale's (NYSE: RIO) iron ore output in 2008 slipped 0.5% from the previous year to 302Mt, the first time since 2000 the company's production has dropped.

"From 2001-07 iron ore output grew at an average annual rate of 13.4% as a consequence of productivity gains and large investments to increase capacity," Vale's annual production report said, adding that the company shut down several mines in Minas Gerais state due to dwindling demand caused by the financial crisis yada yada continues here

So as the slump only really happened at the end of 2008 the note had caught my eye. "Hmmm...just how bad did it get?" thought your inquisitive numbers wonk, so off I trotted to the RIO website to check out the figures. Now this isn't looking at copper, or nickel or any of the other RIO products, just its core industry of iron ore production. Here's the chart.

Holy Moley, that's one helluva drop in the last quarter, especially when you remember that the cuts didn't even start until November, with the second wave of layoffs happening in the first week of December. Gawd help 1q09 and onwards. And even though Vale manged to beat the clock and raise capital at the right time in 2008, frankly I'd rather hold Osama Bin Laden's dick than RIO shares right now. I mean look at the 12 month chart:

For sure it had the waterfall drop just like all the others, but since November people have actually been buying the stock. So take a look at the five year chart and see where the company can go when things get tougher....and they're going to get tougher.