Shares of Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF) saw double-digit gains for the second consecutive day, likely as a result of rising iron ore prices. The day’s stock gains stand in stark contrast for Cliffs, which most often makes the financial news rounds as the perennial pariah of the S&P 500.
Well, was the perennial pariah. Cliffs was unceremoniously booted from the landmark index in march of 2014 following their disastrous 2013 in which the materials company was the third-worst performer in the S&P in 2013. Their 2014 has been even worse, with shares of the company falling 68.06 percent on the year.
To add insult to injury JP Morgan Chase and Co. (JPM) downgraded Cliffs from neutral to overweight. At the same time JP Morgan lowered their price target to $5 a share. And still the company carries a short float of 41.27 percent, indicating many an investor still believes there’s worse times ahead.
What had caused Cliffs to fall so dramatically, and is the uptick sustainable? A lot Cliffs' performance depends on how persistent the current US administration’s so-called “war on coal” will be. As President Obama has called for a weaning-off of coal so has Cliffs bottom line suffered, as domestic demand has slipped considerably and in turn so have Cliffs’ profits.
But coal does not make up the entirety of Cliffs’ revenue stream. While iron ore has dropped from around $150 per ton at the beginning of 2014 to its current spot price of $82.38 a ton, the metal saw a price surge of 4 percent on the day. At the same time metal analysts called for a bottom to the year’s price drop, with Citi (C) calling for a slight pick-up in the price in 2014, possibly as high as $87.
The price rise that started on October 13 was likely triggered by a report from China's National Bureau of Statisticsthat said imports rose 7 percent, in contrast to an expected fall.
Regardless of the reason, Cliffs is currently reaping the benefits of rising ore demand. By 3:30 EST shares of Cliffs had pared back slightly, but still gained 9.82 percent on the day to hit $9.02 a share.
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