December 27, 2018 / 8:59 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Chinese steel prices end slightly lower, erase gains

* Coke erases gains of as much as 3.3 pct

* Steel prices at two-week lows

* Steel mills seen restocking ahead of Lunar New Year (Updates with closing prices)

By Enrico Dela Cruz

MANILA, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Prices for steel and steelmaking raw materials ended lower in China on Thursday with coke and coking coal erasing gains made earlier in the session on hopes demand will pick up as steel mills begin to rebuild inventories ahead of the Lunar New Year.

With more steel mills in China ordered to halt operations or reduce output towards the end of the year amid stringent anti-pollution measures over winter, concerns persist over weak demand.

The most-active coke futures, for May delivery, on the Dalian Commodity Exchange ended down 0.2 percent at 1,889 yuan ($274.12) a tonne, after rising as much as 3.3 percent earlier in the session.

Coking coal eased 0.2 percent to 1,172 yuan a tonne, after gaining as much as 2.3 percent earlier in the day.

The most-active rebar steel contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange slipped 0.4 percent to a two-week low of 3,396 yuan a tonne. Hot rolled coil fell 1 percent at 3,335 yuan.

The most traded iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange inched up 0.2 percent to 491.5 yuan a tonne.

Expectations of a boost in demand as steel mills begin restocking provided some support to prices, said Darren Toh, steel and iron ore data scientist at Tivlon Technologies, a Singapore-based steel and iron ore data analytics company.

“We are expecting a further build up of steel inventories at the warehouses (especially as mills switch to using discounted iron ore),” he said. “(It) is a clear sign of firm commitment to produce more steel despite margin erosion.”

Spot iron ore for delivery to China SH-CCN-IRNOR62 climbed 0.7 percent to $72 a tonne on Wednesday, according to SteelHome consultancy.

($1 = 6.8912 Chinese yuan)

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz Editing by Joseph Radford

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