March 18, 2020 / 8:46 AM / 18 days ago

China iron ore rises, but coronavirus panic tempers gains

MANILA (Reuters) - China’s iron ore futures rose on Wednesday on further policy support for an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic, before closing well off the session’s peak that was the highest in more than seven months.

Workers pour molten iron into a mould at a workshop in Hangzhou, Jiangsu province, China July 24, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Steel futures, however, succumbed to heavy sell-offs in global markets as investors panicked over the deepening public health crisis and its economic fallout.

The Dalian Commodity Exchange’s most-traded iron ore contract, with May expiry, rose 4.1% to 692 yuan ($98.56) a tonne, the highest since Aug. 5, 2019, before closing up just 1.7%.

Iron ore futures on the Singapore Exchange were 1.2% higher in afternoon trade.

Prices of the steelmaking ingredient in the physical market were near three-week highs, partly underpinned by falling inventories at China’s ports.

With all ports in China having returned to normal operations, according to the government, seaborne trade activities should improve further, said Helen Lau, a metals and mining analyst at Argonaut Securities in Hong Kong.

She said top steel producer China has also provided additional policy support to exporters, citing an increase in steel export tax rebates.

China will increase export tax rebates on almost 1,500 products from March 20, the finance ministry said on Tuesday, as the government looks to ease the pressure on companies hit hard by the virus outbreak.

“We take the view that increasing exports rebates will allow Chinese steel makers to churn out more steel products, likely in preparation for a possible demand recovery outside China under fiscal stimulus policies,” Lau wrote in a note.

She said more than 40% of China’s exports are shipped to Asian markets, a region - excluding China - that has so far seen less infections than the United States and Europe.

FUNDAMENTALS

* Construction steel rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange trimmed early gains to end just 0.1% higher and hot-rolled coil, used in cars and home appliances, gained 0.5%, while stainless steel shed 1%.

* Coking coal and coke erased early gains to finish both down 1%.

* The world’s richest nations prepared more costly measures on Tuesday to combat the global fallout of the coronavirus that has sent economies spinning toward recession.

* Industry benchmark 62% iron ore’s spot price stood at $92 a tonne on Tuesday, the highest since Feb. 24, based on data from SteelHome consultancy.

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Aditya Soni and Subhranshu Sahu

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