March 17, 2020 / 4:17 AM / 15 days ago

China steel futures weaken as virus panic escalates

* Dalian iron ore wobbles amid speculation risks warning

* Benchmark 62% iron ore’s spot price hits 3-week high

* Iron ore spot prices resilient - S&P Global Platts

By Enrico Dela Cruz

MANILA, March 17 (Reuters) - Benchmark steel futures in China dropped on Tuesday, retreating from a near two-month high hit in the previous session, as fears worsened over the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the world economy.

Border closures and travel bans worldwide have intensified as the virus spreads at a breakneck pace, feeding a steady rise in new infections and deaths. In China, where local transmission of the disease has slowed, authorities are struggling to control new infections from abroad.

“Even though China’s coronavirus cases are subsiding, supply chains will remain broken from the suspension of factory operations globally, and as demand from the rest of the world shrinks, dealing a double blow to China’s factories and exports,” said Iris Pang, ING chief economist for Greater China.

China on Monday reported dismal industrial production data for the first two months of the year, indicating a dramatic downturn for the world’s second-biggest economy due to the pandemic.

Construction steel rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange was down 0.5% at 3,545 yuan ($506.84) a tonne, as of 0240 GMT.

Hot-rolled steel coil, used in cars and home appliances, shed 1.2% to 3,480 yuan a tonne, while stainless steel slumped 1.3% to 12,125 yuan.

ING has downgraded its growth forecasts for China to 3.6% for the first quarter from 4.4% previously, and to 4.8% for the full year from 5.2% earlier.

FUNDAMENTALS

* The Dalian Commodity Exchange’s most-traded iron ore contract struggled to find footing in another volatile session, turning flat after recent gains.

* S&P Global Platts, which has an iron ore benchmark index, said on Monday iron ore prices have been resilient and activity levels have remained healthy recently.

* However, industry group China Iron & Steel Association on Sunday warned about speculation risks in the futures market as the iron ore index was deviating from supply and demand fundamentals and the spot market.

* Brazil’s iron ore miner Vale SA said workers around the globe and third-party service providers in administrative roles would start working from home amid the health crisis caused by the pandemic.

* Industry benchmark 62% iron ore’s spot price climbed to $92 a tonne on Monday, the highest since Feb. 24, based on data from SteelHome consultancy. SH-CCN-IRNOR62

* Coking coal rose 0.9% but coke slipped 0.6%.

($1 = 6.9943 yuan)

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Devika Syamnath

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