China steel futures extend gains, iron ore ends flat

Chinese mills are producing steel at an annualized rate of more than one billion tonnes. Stock image

* Iron ore erases day’s gains, coking coal falls for 5th day

* Brazil bans upstream mining dams after Vale disaster

* China halts Australian coal orders amid customs delays

Benchmark steel prices in China closed below session highs in a listless trade on Tuesday, while steel-making raw material iron ore ended flat after a two-day gain on concerns over supply disruptions.

The most-active rebar contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange ended 0.3 percent higher at 3,655 yuan ($539.37) a tonne, after rising to as high as 3,698 yuan. Hot rolled coil climbed 1.1 percent to 3,638 yuan.

The most-traded iron ore contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange ended steady at 631 yuan a tonne, after rising almost 1 percent earlier in the day.

How much the losses would be and whether other producers elsewhere could offset them remained uncertain.

“Iron ore continues to influence the ferrous complex. Steel prices reflect the rising cost of iron ore and producers are passing it on to the consumers,” said Darren Toh, a data scientist with Singapore-based steel and iron ore data analytics company Tivlon Technologies.

A market rally earlier this month in the wake of a tailings dam disaster at top miner Vale SA’s iron ore operations in Brazil had brought Dalian iron ore to a record high of 657.5 yuan last week.

Spot iron ore for delivery to China was priced at $88.80 a tonne on Monday, up 1.1 percent from last Friday, but down almost 6 percent from $94.3 on Feb.11, SteelHome consultancy data showed.

Iron ore prices are expected to remain high for sometime with the market still focused on the impact of the loss of some supply from Brazil, ANZ analysts said in a note. How much the losses would be and whether other producers elsewhere could offset them remained uncertain.

Brazil’s government on Monday banned new upstream mining dams and ordered the decommissioning of all such dams by 2021, targeting the type of structure that burst last month in the town of Brumadinho, killing hundreds of people.

The move would impact some 50 upstream mining dams in the country’s mining heartland of Minas Gerais state alone.

Coking coal dropped 1.1 percent to 1,256 yuan a tonne, marking the fifth day of declines for the steel-making raw material, after scaling a peak of 1,323.5 yuan last week.

Coke ended 0.9 percent firmer at 2,085 yuan, rebounding from earlier losses.

Chinese coal traders have stopped ordering Australian coal as clearing times through China’s customs have doubled to at least 40 days, according to major buyers in China and international coal merchants.

($1 = 6.7764 Chinese yuan)

(By Enrico dela Cruz, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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