July 1, 2019 / 7:59 AM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-China iron ore hits record high, rebar logs longest rally since 2017

* Dalian iron ore benchmark jumps as much as 4.9%

* Iron ore stocks at China ports shrink further

* Shanghai steel rebar rallies for 9th session

* Steel climbs amid intensifying output restrictions (Updates with closing prices, graphic)

By Enrico Dela Cruz

MANILA, July 1 (Reuters) - Iron ore futures in China jumped to a record high on Monday, extending a rally driven by tight supply as well as expectations that surging steel prices will boost demand for the raw material.

Steel futures rose, with construction material rebar booking its longest rally since around the middle of 2017, which began on June 19, amid intensifying production restrictions to curb pollution in China’s industrial hubs.

The most-active September iron ore contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange rose as much as 4.9% to 874.5 yuan ($127.94) a tonne, the highest on record for the benchmark launched in 2013. It closed up 4.7% at 873 yuan.

The steelmaking raw material had its biggest quarterly gain since late 2016 in April-June period, buoyed by expectations that supply in the world’s top steel producer will remain tight in the second half.

“We remain bearish in our overall assessment of short-term supply conditions,” said Hui Heng Tan, a research analyst at commodities broker Marex Spectron.

“While we continue to expect greater (iron ore) inflows into China in the short term, there are early signs of some tightness developing as per our forward supply indicator,” Tan said in a note.

Iron ore stocked at China’s ports hit the lowest level since early 2017 last week largely due to reduced supply from Brazil, where a deadly tailings dam burst in January prompted shutdowns of mines of top producer Vale SA for safety checks.

Lower supply from Australia, as operational issues and bad weather have prompted miners to lower their output and shipment estimates, bolsters expectations of a global iron ore shortage that some analysts say could last until 2020.

As of last Friday, port inventory in China stood at 115.25 million tonnes, falling steadily from this year’s peak of nearly 149 million tonnes around mid-April, according to data tracked by HomeSteel consultancy. SH-TOT-IRONINV

“We remain bullish on short-term demand (for iron ore),” Marex Spectron’s Tan said. “Part of the reason for this latest rebound has been due to lower steel rates which are helping to support overall steel prices.”

Benchmark spot iron ore was at $118.20 a tonne as of June 28, near a five-year peak, SteelHome data showed. SH-CCN-IRONOR62

The most-active October rebar contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange climbed 1.6% to 4,107 yuan a tonne. It hit 4,148 yuan early in the day, its highest since February 2011.

Hot rolled coil, steel used in cars and home appliances, touched a record-high 4,049 yuan a tonne, before ending up 1.2% at 3,983 yuan.

Steel prices have largely been supported this year by expectations of increased demand as China rolls out stimulus measures to prop up its slowing economy, and further boosted by production curbs in pollution-hit steel hubs.

China will order local governments to raise the approval threshold for new industrial projects and limit the number of polluting factories in regions where environmental conditions are already stressed, an environment official said on Friday.

Providing a positive backdrop, the United States and China agreed on Saturday to restart trade talks, giving financial markets some relief after after being rattled by the months-long trade spat between the two biggest economies.

Other steelmaking inputs also advanced, with coking coal up 1.1% at 1,404 yuan a tonne. Coke surged 3.1% to 2,130.5 yuan.

($1 = 6.8353 yuan)

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; editing by Uttaresh.V and Rashmi Aich

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