BHP Billiton, the world's biggest diversified miner, says it's finally detecting signs of a commodity market turnaround. As David Pollard reports, it's given its most upbeat assessment in about five years.
Rock-bottom commodity prices have given big miners like BHP Billiton even bigger headaches. But boss Andrew Mackenzie detects signs of a turnaround - or what he calls 'markets rebalancing'. Oil and gas demand will improve. Iron ore prices have been stronger than expected, he says. As have prices for metallurgical or 'coking' coal - used in steel production. The outlook has its sceptics. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CMC MARKETS ANALYST, MICHAEL HEWSON, SAYING: "If you actually look at the rebound in oil prices since the beginning of the year, that does appear to be running into a little bit of a brick wall around 50, 55 dollars a barrel ... If you look at what iron ore prices have been doing over the past two or three months, they've been trading between 55 and 65 dollars a tonne, haven't really been going anywhere after the rebound we saw at the beginning of the year, and copper's been trading sideways." But one estimate suggests that a barometer of global demand - China's steel consumption - was up over 12 per cent in September from a year ago. Iron ore imports climbed to 93 million tonnes - the second highest on record. Good, says Hewson - but not good enough. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CMC MARKETS ANALYST, MICHAEL HEWSON, SAYING: "I think if we're going to see any further progress on the upside, then I think we need to see further evidence that we're going to get a rebound in economic activity. Thus far, from what I've seen out of China, that doesn't appear to be the case." Or at least not yet - China's latest GDP numbers showing a steady 6.7 per cent growth rate. Strong by global standards perhaps ... But not quite enough to satisfy analysts that after its lowest growth in 25 years last year, the world's second biggest economy is really back on track.