* Benchmark iron ore futures edge down in early trade
* Dalian coking coal up as much as 1.5%
* Chinese coal imports for Dec. see sharp slump from Nov
SHANGHAI, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Benchmark Dalian iron ore futures inched lower in early trade on Thursday on fresh output curbs in China due to pollution, while the market was also cautious after the world’s two largest economies sealed the first phase of a trade agreement.
The United States and China agreed to roll back some tariffs and boost Chinese purchases of U.S. products, defusing an 18-month row between the two sides, but leaving a number of sore spots unresolved.
The Dalian Commodity Exchange’s most-traded iron ore contract with May expiry dipped 0.3% to 665 yuan per tonne by 0220 GMT.
Iron ore prices were also pressured by fresh output curbs when China’s top steelmaking city Tangshan issued a second-level heavy pollution alert on Wednesday evening, according to local government-backed media.
Spot prices of the benchmark 62% iron-content ore, as tracked by SteelHome consultancy SH-CCN-IRNOR62, held steady at 96.5$ per tonne on Wednesday, unchanged from previous session but still hovering around a near four month high.
* The Shanghai Futures Exchange’s most-traded steel rebar contract inched down 0.03% to 3,555 yuan per tonne.
* Hot-rolled steel coil, used in cars and home appliances, edged up 0.06% to 3,595 yuan per tonne.
* Meanwhile, Shanghai stainless steel futures, for February 2020 delivery, rose 0.2% to 14,145 yuan per tonne.
* Dalian coking coal rose 1.1% to 1,223 yuan per tonne, before jumping 1.5% earlier this morning, while Dalian coke was steady at 1,857 yuan per tonne.
* China’s coal imports in December slumped to 2.77 million tonnes for the month, a sharp drop from the 20.78 million tonnes imported in November. Coal mines have also begun to halt productions ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays at the end of the month.
* China’s new home prices grew at their weakest pace in 17 months in December, with broader curbs on the sector continuing to cool the market in a further blow to the sputtering economy.
* India is planning to cut some imports from Turkey and widen curbs on palm oil from Malaysia to oil, gas and other products, government officials said, targeting the two Muslim-majority countries for their criticism of India’s policy towards Kashmir.
$1 = 6.8848 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Emily Chow and Min Zhang; Editing by Shailesh Kuber