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Iron ore futures advance on China steel demand, spot price at 13-month high

* Dalian iron ore jumps by up to 2.5%

* SGX iron ore rises for third session

* Spot iron ore extends gains above $120/t

MANILA, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Iron ore futures firmed on Tuesday, gaining as much as $3 a tonne, on expectations that steel usage in China would remain robust in the coming months and offset sluggish demand overseas.

The Dalian Commodity Exchange’s most-traded iron ore for delivery in January 2021 rose as much as 2.5% to 855 yuan ($123.35) a tonne in early trade, extending gains into a fourth straight session.

Iron ore’s front-month September contract on the Singapore Exchange climbed 1.9% to $119.15 a tonne, rising for the third session in a row.

“Market participants are looking forward to a strong second half for Chinese steel demand which should maintain steel and iron ore prices above previous expectations,” said Justin Smirk, senior economist at Westpac Economic Research.

Supply disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will provide support to the steelmaking ingredient’s price, before it softens next year, he wrote in Westpac’s monthly market outlook.

Physical iron ore prices have surged to more than $120 a tonne, with the inclusion of Yandi Fines and Karara Concentrate in the Dalian exchange’s list of deliverable brands further boosting prices.

Benchmark 62% iron ore's spot price in top steel producer China jumped to a 13-month high of $121.50 a tonne on Monday, SteelHome consultancy data showed. SH-CCN-IRNOR62

FUNDAMENTALS

* Iron ore miner BHP Group expects most major economies except China to bear the brunt of a coronavirus-led downturn this year, as it reported a more than 4% drop in annual profit.

* Stainless steel on the Shanghai Futures Exchange extended gains, up 1.3% by 0315 GMT, on strong demand and costlier raw material nickel amid tight supply from the Philippines and Indonesia.

* Shanghai construction steel rebar gained 0.4%, while hot-rolled coil added 0.8%.

* Dalian coking coal jumped 0.9% but coke was virtually flat.

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Aditya Soni

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