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Iron ore flat, steel prices rise ahead of peak construction season

China’s iron ore futures ended little changed on Wednesday after hitting a three-week low in the previous session, as market expects demand from steel mills to pick up ahead of the peak spring construction season.

The most traded iron ore contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange for May delivery closed 0.1 percent lower at 593 yuan ($88.73) a tonne.

The contract had shed 3.2 percent on Tuesday and hit 586 yuan, its lowest since Feb. 1, on news that Brazilian exports of the steelmaking raw material were averaging higher year-on-year despite miner Vale’s tailings dam accident last month.

The spring period beginning in March, after China’s Lunar New Year holiday, “is generally the peak season for steel products demand,” said Zhao Xiaobo, an analyst with Sinosteel Futures in Beijing, adding that there should be a high concentration of construction sites starting work next month.

The most active construction steel rebar contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange rose for a fourth day on Wednesday, climbing 0.2 percent to 3,715 yuan a tonne, while hot-rolled steel coil gained 0.5 percent to 3,734 yuan a tonne.

Gains were nonetheless capped by high stock levels. Total iron ore inventories at Chinese ports SH-TOT-IRONINV currently stand at 145.05 million tonnes, according to SteelHome, the highest level since Sept. 21 last year.

“This may be due to some steel mills being forced to adhere to stricter sintering curbs in Tangshan,” ANZ wrote in a note, referring to China’s top steel-producing city in Hebei province.

Wednesday marks the first day that the Dalian exchange, whose iron ore futures trading volumes have been slumping in recent month, is allowing individual foreign investors to trade the contract.

“I do not think it would cause significant changes to price movement as the key players in the industry are already trading the Dalian iron ore futures since 2016,” said Darren Toh, a data scientist with Singapore-based steel and iron ore data analytics company Tivlon Technologies.

Among other steelmaking raw materials, coking coal added 0.6 percent to 1,295.5 yuan a tonne, having touched a two-week high, while coke edged down 0.2 percent to 2,122 yuan a tonne.

Physical coking coal markets remain “active, with Chinese traders keen to secure premium hard coking coal,” pushing Australian prices higher, ANZ said.

Source: Reuters

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