* Steel and raw materials prices down
* Steel demand weakens ahead of Lunar New Year
* Iron ore imports seen to ease slightly at 1.068 bln T this year
SHANGHAI, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Chinese steel futures fell further on Wednesday as snowy weather hit demand in the world’s top producer.
Heavy snow in the country has hit construction activity, which accounts for significant steel consumption. Industrial activity also slows down ahead of the Lunar New Year starting mid-February.
“It’s almost holiday season, and some mills’ sales department and traders have almost suspended trading during two weeks ahead of the Spring Festival,” said Zhou Tao, an analyst with Citic Futures in Shanghai.
The most active rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange dipped 0.6 percent at 3,899 yuan a tonne by GMT 0210.
Iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange fell 2 percent at 507 yuan.
Coke tumbled 1.8 percent at 1,988 yuan a tonne and coking coal lost 0.7 percent at 1,283.5 yuan a tonne, respectively.
Iron ore for delivery to China’s Qingdao port .IO62-CNO=MB dropped $1.36 to $72.97 a tonne, according to Metal Bulletin.
China’s iron ore import prices are expected to average $65 per tonne in 2018, with imports easing slightly to 1.068 billion tonnes, an official with China Metallurgical Industry Planning and Research Institute (MIPRI) told an industry conference on Wednesday.
Brazilian miner Vale, the world’s top iron ore producer, seeks to diversify away from the product even though continued Chinese efforts to reduce pollution will boost demand for the miner’s high quality ore, its chief executive said. (Reporting by Ruby Lian and Josephine Mason; Editing by Sunil Nair)