China steel, iron ore edge lower in wobbly trade amid tepid demand

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Steel and iron ore futures in China fell for a second straight session on Thursday as demand weakened, with sentiment dampened by falling automobile sales and a softer outlook for economic growth in the world’s biggest consumer of commodities.

Hot-rolled coil, the steel used in cars and home appliances, slipped 0.4% to 3,874 yuan ($564.44) a tonne on the Shanghai Futures Exchange.

China is likely to see a further drop in vehicle sales this year compared to expectations for zero growth, the country’s biggest auto industry association said on Wednesday, after its data showed the sector contracted for a 12th straight month in June.

The most-active October construction steel rebar contract dropped 0.2% to 4,017 yuan a tonne.

“Steel demand particularly in the construction sector has slowed down a bit as some real estate developers face financing issues at home,” said a Shanghai-based trader.

“But they are trying to solve this problem by trying to raise more funds at the overseas markets,” the trader added.

Chinese steel futures and prices for steelmaking inputs such as iron ore have risen this year partly due to expectations that Beijing will provide more stimulus to avoid a sharper economic slowdown.

The trader said any additional stimulus could be expected after the National Day holiday in October. “Usually nothing big happens before that,” he added.

China’s economic growth is expected to slow to a near 30-year low of 6.2% this year, a Reuters poll showed on Wednesday, despite a flurry of support measures to spur domestic demand amid a bruising trade war with the United States.

Fundamentals

The most-traded September iron ore contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange slumped 1.2% to 866.5 yuan a tonne.

Driven by demand for capesize vessels shipping iron ore, which indicates increased shipments of the steelmaking input from Brazil to China, the Baltic Exchange’s main sea freight index rose to its highest in more than five and a half years on Wednesday.

Imported iron ore inventory at Chinese ports has fallen 18% this year in the wake of mine shutdowns in Brazil due to safety checks following a deadly dam disaster in January, and weather-related disruptions in supply from Australia.

Iron ore port stocks hit a 2-1/2-year low of 115.25 million tonnes by the end of June, before rising slightly to 115.6 million tonnes last week, according to port data tracked by SteelHome consultancy.

Benchmark spot 62% iron ore for delivery to China was up 1.7% at $119.50 a tonne on Wednesday, still below the more than five-year high of $126.50 hit on July 3, SteelHome data showed.

Other steelmaking inputs ended the wobbly trade higher, with Dalian coking coal up 1.3% at 1,394 yuan a tonne and coke edging 0.1% higher at 2,093.5 yuan.

($1 = 6.8635 yuan)

(By Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Gopakumar Warrier)

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