First there was the Stone Age, which was followed by the Bronze Age. The Iron Age is the last period of prehistoric societies, and it’s said to have begun about 14,000 years ago. Large scale production of iron only began about 2000 BC, but by that time it had replaced bronze as the principal metal of its time. It (especially when mixed with carbon) was just harder, more durable, and held a sharper edge than the bronze it replaced.
Today, it can be argued that iron is actually more valuable than even gold. It is quite abundant, so it’s not terribly expensive. It actually comprises 5.6% of the Earth’s crust, and virtually the entire core of the planet is made of this metal.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that today iron is everywhere because it is an integral component of steel. It can be found inside buildings and in transportation vehicles. Find any room in your house and you’ll find it in the many devices. Just about every machine has this metal.
Below is the historical Iron price per metric ton.
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The price of this metal, like any other commodity, is largely dictated by the amount of supply and the level of demand. However, its prices can also be affected by speculation, especially when new markets emerge than affect the demand or if the supply of the ores is disrupted in some way.
Just recently, the price of iron ore jumped 19% in March 7, 2016. This is the highest one-day jump in the price history of the metal. It followed the Chinese government’s announcement it will focus on growth rather than in economic restructuring for the rest of 2016. Investors believe that this means the Chinese government’s policy to stimulate its economy means that it will likely increase its demand for the metal needed for steel making.
If it is mixed with a little carbon (ranging from 0.02 to 0.08%), it’s is called wrought iron, and that makes it hardy while still malleable. In contrast, cast iron has a lot more carbon (3 to 4.5%) and that makes it hard but brittle and un-malleable. Steel is right in the middle of these two extremes, with carbon content ranging from 0.2 to 15%. This makes it both hard and malleable. Stainless steel has at least 10.5% chromium, which makes it highly resistant to corrosion.
Iron as Investment
Investing in iron is associated with investing in steel, which has also been known to mankind for thousands of years. It’s just that for all those years the process of steel-making was costly and difficult. It was only in 1856 that Sir Henry Bessemer came up with a process that enabled mass-production of cheap steel. A few years later, it was improved so that the production of cheap steel truly skyrocketed. It fueled the Industrial Revolution, as factories, construction yards, ship builders, and railroads used huge amounts of steel.
Speculation in the metal is tied to projections of economic growth. Basically, if the economy is doing well, then there would be a greater demand for construction, for automotive vessels like cars, ships, and planes, and for various devices. All these industries affect the price.
After the Chinese government announcement, the price of ore with 62 percent content jumped to $63.74 a dry metric ton. These are mostly in futures prices, because there has not yet been any increase in physical orders for iron ores. The stocks of producer companies also increased in price. In Sydney trading, the price of the Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. increased by 24 percent. Prices of the Vale SA, the biggest producer company in the world, jumped by 9 percent in Brazil trading. The Rio Tinto Group, the second-biggest mining company, climbed 5%, while BHP Billiton Ltd. also rose by 3.5% in UK trading.
So for investors, there are two basic ways to invest in this metal. You can buy futures or invest in the mining companies that produce iron and steel. When the Chinese demand finally arrives, these companies are poised to profit from the increased demand.
Purposes of Iron
This metal is everywhere in modern society, especially in stainless steel. There’s really no point to listing down all the products that use steel. It’s found vessels, buildings, appliances and tools. Unless an item is made of pure wood or pure plastic, then you’ll find iron.
You can even find minute traces in your food, and that’s a good thing because your body needs it. Without it, your body can’t make enough red blood cells that carry oxygen and your body won’t get the oxygen it needs.
Iron is everywhere, and without it life isn’t just inconvenient and backward. Without it in our diet, we could die!