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China stainless steel futures jump on concerns over Philippine nickel supply

* Nickel Asia halts ops at mine after COVID-19 outbreak

* Nickel’s sizzling rally cools, but seen not over yet

* Iron ore, steel futures rise as China plenum in focus

MANILA, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Chinese stainless steel futures rose on Wednesday after the Philippines’ top producer and exporter of nickel ore, Nickel Asia Corp, suspended operations at one of its four mines due to an outbreak of the coronavirus.

Work at Nickel Asia’s Hinatuan mine in the country’s nickel mining hub, the Caraga region, has been suspended from Tuesday until Nov. 10 as a containment measure.

China’s reliance on nickel ore from the Philippines has increased this year after its main supplier of the material Indonesia in January temporarily stopped exporting unprocessed minerals.

Ore from the Philippines is used to make nickel pig iron, the raw material for China’s massive stainless steel industry.

The most-active January 2021 stainless steel contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange rose as much as 2% to 14,550 yuan ($2,170.70) a tonne. Nickel futures also advanced.

The Hinatuan mine closure could add to concerns about limited nickel supply from the Philippines until early next year.

“As the rainy season approaches in the main nickel production areas of the Philippines, it is expected that the shipment volume of Philippine nickel ore may begin to gradually decline after November,” analysts at Huatai Futures said in a note.

FUNDAMENTALS

* Nickel’s spectacular rally over the last month, based on ore shortages and robust demand from China’s stainless steel mills, still has momentum.

* Iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange rose 1.4% to 777.50 yuan a tonne as investors awaited China’s economic blueprint, which will be laid out at this week’s Communisty Party plenum.

* Iron ore on the Singapore Exchange advanced 0.7%.

* Shanghai rebar and hot-rolled coil both climbed 1%.

* Dalian coking coal slipped 0.7% but coke gained as much as 1.2% to mark a fresh contract high.

Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Aditya Soni

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